Despite the proven track record of cannabis sales in the U.S., Senate Republicans still refuse to go down the path toward legalization.
For the first time in history, Congress has voted to legalize marijuana in the United States. Well, kind of.
The House of Representatives approved a piece of legislation (MORE Act) last week to eliminate the cannabis plant from the Controlled Substances Act and work to expunge criminal records and dedicate funds to those communities choking on the bones of the drug war. But the bill is not expected to advance with Senate support. More accurately, it’s probably dead in its tracks.
This inaction is mostly because top-ranking Republicans are still morally opposed to legal weed. They argue that the country needs to focus first on fixing the economy crushed by the novel coronavirus and bring jobs back to millions of Americans still waiting on some kind of relief.
But Senate Republicans have forgotten about (or maybe they just don’t want to discuss it) the economic benefits that the U.S. could reap from legal marijuana. Early reports show that nationwide legalization (depending on whether every state jumped on board) would create one million jobs and contribute billions in economic impact.
The latest predictions from cannabis marketing agency Gram by Gram estimate that job creation could reach closer to 1.63 million by 2025. Considering that millions are still out of work due to the virus, businesses are shutting down by the day, and nobody knows what bogeyman is coming next, legalizing weed could be the most common sense move toward recovery. No, it might not mean salvation for the country in the short term, but it’s hard to argue that House lawmakers aren’t on the right track by proposing legal weed as a long-term solution.
Marijuana has proven to be a pandemic-proof slice of American commerce. Early on, during the initial wave of shutdowns, many states deemed cannabis dispensaries essential businesses, allowing them to continue servicing customers in uncertain times. And cannabis consumers took full advantage of it, too.
Market data shows that customers weren’t spending any less on weed in states that have legalized it for recreational use, even though they weren’t shopping as frequently to keep from further exposing themselves to the virus. But the cannabis trade was still collecting their cash. In many cases, dispensaries were selling more weed than before the pandemic hit.
Some speculated that thriving weed sales had to do with the extra $600 in unemployment pay from the federal government. That money has since run out, but cannabis sales continue to increase.
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A new report from global market research provider BDSA (formerly BDS Analytics) shows global cannabis sales for 2020 will hit nearly $20 billion. That is roughly a 40% increase from last year, at a time when populations weren’t being tragically disabled by the economic fallout of the coronavirus. Analysts predict marijuana sales will be closer to $35 billion in the U.S. alone by 2025.
“While the 2020 forecast is down less than 1% from the forecast released earlier this year, cannabis sales YTD have swung wildly in different states as a result of COVID-19,” Roy Bingham, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of BDSA said in a statement.
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Unfortunately, despite the proven track record of cannabis sales in the U.S., Senate Republicans still refuse to go down the path toward legalization. The only hope the MORE Act has to gain traction is if the Democrats end up flipping the Senate in Georgia’s runoff election in January; a victory would put enough donkey party power behind the bill to get it to the desk of President-elect Joe Biden.
And even though Biden claims not to support full-blown legalization, many believe he might adapt to a more progressive policy if Congress were to find a way to approve it. Again, that’s only possible if the Democrats gain majority control of the Senate. If they don’t, Republicans will surely discount the economic benefits of legal weed for the next few years.