When it comes to nationwide marijuana decriminalization, the president would need the help of the full Congress to get it done. And that’s where things get tricky.
Joe Biden wants America to see him as the hip, new president who is just flat out better than Donald Trump. He’s not interested in building walls, inciting riots, or tweeting a bunch of jibber-jabber from the White House throne. No sir, old Cup of Joe has a more reasonable agenda than the lame-brained administration that just moved out. He’s trying to tame the coronavirus debacle, repair a beaten-down economy, and conduct a significant overhaul on immigration.
If time allotted, Biden would also like to be the Commander in Chief to kick some major tail in the realm of marijuana reform. Not only does he support the legalization of medical marijuana, but he’s also interested in eliminating the criminal penalties associated with minor possession.
Unfortunately, President Biden cannot crawl out of bed this morning and sign an executive order to end marijuana prohibition. He wouldn’t even if he could. Although Biden’s campaign showed a willingness to get behind modest cannabis reforms, full-blown legalization wasn’t one of them. However, Biden has some executive power he can use to help further the marijuana movement.
He can sign one ordering his health secretary to initiate the rescheduling process for the cannabis plant. And he might just do that. Biden has suggested that he would be willing to downgrade marijuana’s Schedule I listing to a Schedule II. Yet, when it comes to nationwide marijuana decriminalization, the president would need the help of the full Congress to get it done. And that’s where things get tricky.
There’s already enough evidence showing that it’s not going to be a bipartisan walk in the park on Capitol Hill this year. The Senate is presently in a political purgatory since the Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on the basic rules for operating a 50-50 split. To that end, the Republicans are stomping their collective feet at Biden’s early legislative agenda. They’re not buying into his $1.9 trillion stimulus deal — one that would put $1,400 into the pockets of each American — and they’re not at all pleased at the concept of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
With this gridlock in the Senate, it’s going to be difficult for Biden to deliver campaign promises that keep the country from sinking further into a pandemic-driven downtrodden. It could also spell disaster for Biden’s plan to be the first president to get any concrete marijuana reforms on the books.
Now that the Democrats control both the House and Senate, cannabis advocates were hopeful that 2021 would be the year that marijuana got a fair shake on the Hill. Only it’s not going to be that easy. The Democrat’s majority is by such a thin margin that it doesn’t provide the party with the bulletproof political power that it needs to start making demands.
The Democrats lost three House seats to the new Biden Administration, which leaves them hanging onto the majority by a thread. The Senate, which is evenly divided, is in similar shape. Even though Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaking vote for the Democrats, they are still going to need plenty of Republican votes to pass Biden bills, and that includes anything pertaining to marijuana reform. Although Mitch McConnell is no longer running the show in the upper chamber, the Democrats will desperately need him to rally the votes necessary to change the cannabis laws.
So what are the chances of getting McConnell to drum up support for decriminalization?
Honestly, it doesn’t look good – not at this juncture. McConnell is the more experienced, arrogant Senator, not to mention he still holds a lot of clout on the Hill even without majority leader status. Some of his last words on marijuana were not at all favorable. Given that he is still sore about losing the big boy’s seat in Georgia’s runoff election, he will not likely be quick to jump on board to help further the Democratic agenda. This is especially true when it comes to controversial issues, like cannabis reform. Still, former Schumer aides argue that he isn’t going to be bullied by McConnell. They say he has the chops to “outmaneuver the Republicans on substantive issues.”
Whether he’s a vicious enough shark to accomplish Biden’s policies remains to be seen. One thing is sure, Uncle Sam’s head is in a vice. This year could easily end up being yet another nonstarter for pot.