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Filibuster Not Going Anywhere — What Does That Mean For Marijuana In 2021?

The filibuster is an old Senate rule that demands a 60-vote supermajority to pass controversial issues. Therefore, Chuck Schumer’s long-awaited pot bill probably won’t get the votes it needs to advance to the House.

Ever since Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was handed the keys to the Capitol Hill kingdom, he’s been moving and shaking, trying to find ways to pass a heaping helping of the Democratic agenda. The party was forced to lean on budget reconciliation to pass a sizable COVID-relief bill without Republican support.

They were also recently given the green light by the parliamentarian to flex this tactic again in a way that will allow them to pass more legislation before midterms sans Republican interference. Because of the 50-50 split in the Senate and the slim majority in the House, Democrats understand they will be hard-pressed to get anything approved this year without Senate Republicans ripping it to pieces with the filibuster.

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Democrats have toyed with eliminating the filibuster to take the Hill, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to bring all Senate business to a screeching halt if they mess with it at all. Furthermore, McConnell says that any legislation Democrats pass once the filibuster has been removed will just end up repealed once Republicans are back in power — and that could be 2022. This means Schumer has to be careful with how he proceeds, or else he could blow a chance to pass issues like a minimum wage hike, gun reform and marijuana legalization.

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Senator Schumer recently announced that he would introduce a comprehensive marijuana legalization plan that would immediately hit the floor for a vote. The news got cannabis advocates all hot and bothered with the prospect that the collapse of pot prohibition in the US was finally on the horizon. But before a cannabis bill can move forward, the Democrats will need either plenty of Republican support (which they do not have) or a way to sidestep the filibuster.

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Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Getty Images

The filibuster is an old Senate rule that demands a 60-vote supermajority to pass controversial issues. Therefore, Schumer’s long-awaited pot bill probably won’t get the votes it needs to advance to the House. And if it can’t get that far, well, it’s probably a dead issue. Even if Democrats moved to end the filibuster to further their agenda, it would take the support of the entire Democratic caucus to get it done. And key Democrats are adamant about keeping the rule in place.

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“I have said it before and will say it again to remove any shred of doubt: There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” US Sen. Joe Manchin said in an article for the Washington Post. “The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”

But getting Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything, much less marijuana is going to be tough. McConnell isn’t about it, and his influence could easily ensure that talks concerning legalization don’t get very far.

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Marijuana advocates keep asking when they will see Schumer’s marijuana bill. Although Democrats act like passing it is going to be relatively easy, the reason we haven’t seen any legislation yet, presumably, is because they are still trying to figure out how to keep it alive once it is introduced. They’re going to hit a wall with the GOP filibuster, no doubt. And a marijuana bill can’t pass by way of budget reconciliation.

So far, Democrats are keeping a lid on their secret fears regarding their dedication to furthering the marijuana movement. For now, the stableness of the filibuster almost ensures that legal marijuana is going to be a huge failure in 2021.

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