Sunday, October 1, 2023

Will Senator Mitch McConnell Be A Problem For Marijuana In 2021?

We imagine that the same reasons he has for refusing the American people money they need to stay alive is part of his motivation for wanting to stop legal marijuana from taking hold.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is perhaps the most despised person in the United States. The top Senate Republican recently sidelined an effort to provide the American people with checks for $2000 instead of the $600 stimulus approved under the latest coronavirus relief bill.

The entire nation has been screaming at McConnell for days from their computers, televisions and smartphones because the lawmaker fails to see the necessity of providing folks with enough cash to actually aid them in catching their fiscal breath. Meanwhile, the cannabis advocacy troop is presumably happy that the rest of the country is finally seeing what they’ve known for years: McConnell is anti-progress.  

When the U.S. House of Representatives passed the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity and Expungement Act), they knew the bill didn’t have a fighting chance at being taken seriously with this Congress. As Senate Majority Leader, McConnell determines which legislation sees the light of day and which doesn’t. Marijuana-related legislation is always something he has ignored to the bitter end.

Although McConnell was instrumental in reviving industrial hemp cultivation in 2018, the self-proclaimed grim reaper of Capitol Hill wants nothing to do with making its stoner cousin an American staple. Some think he is apprehensive because he wants to give hemp farmers a chance to thrive first, while others believe that he’s just too old school for pot’s progressive ways. Regardless of which is true, McConnell is one of the main reasons that cannabis prohibition is alive and well. So how much longer is this lawmaker going to be a problem for pot? 

Senator McConnell seems to be against all Americans, but his Kentucky peeps keep reelecting him for the job. He’s spent three decades in Congress, working his way up to majority leader, and now he’s essentially become the most powerful man in Washington D.C. He has more corporate sponsors than professional sports, which has a lot of people questioning exactly who he works for. And while antics like blocking additional corona relief cash for the American people are top of mind right now, the voters always seem to forget about these snubs at the polls. 

Senate Republicans Balk At Democratic House Move To Legalize Marijuana
Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

But McConnell’s reign of terror might be at the end of its rope. Although he won the 2020 election, he could still get knocked off his high horse in the new year. 

Next week is Georgia’s runoff election. Since none of the Senate candidates received enough votes to be declared a winner in November, the voters will hit the polls again in a bid to flush out a victor. As we’ve pointed out in previous columns, if the Democrats take over the two seats, the party will have the majority in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate — giving them the most power in D.C. However, if the Republicans maintain those seats, well, it will be business as usual for a divided Congress.  

One scenario specifically spells doom for Senator McConnell. Since Biden won the presidential election, a Democratic victory in Georgia means that he would no longer control the Senate majority. This demotion would strip most of the bill-blocking power away from the Kentucky Republican, and the Democrats would gain that clout and use it to pass just about any measure they want, including those pertaining to marijuana.

RELATED: Senator Mitch McConnell Congratulates Biden, But Will He Work With Him On Weed?

The only recourse Republicans would have to block cannabis-related bills (or any other issue they wholeheartedly disagree with) is a legislative filibuster. Republicans could try to delay votes by extending debates and using other means of obstruction. But the Democrats, if they win, are talking about taking this option off the table for good.

Senator Mitch McConnell Congratulates Biden, But Will He Work With Him On Weed?
Photo by Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty Images

But McConnell could still be a threat.

Even if the Senator gets dethroned as Majority Leader, he will still have a great deal of political influence. As Eastern Kentucky University professor Anne Cizmar pointed out recently, McConnell is a “skilled politician” who, even outside the scope of majority leader, would be useful in furthering the Republican agenda while also snuffing out anything the Democrats try to achieve.

And that might include marijuana legalization. But that’s a big maybe. Even in the event of a Senate deadlock, the vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris, could still swoop in and save the day. And since she is on the right side of marijuana reform, it’s not likely that too much backdoor politics would hold back any pot-related measures. Still, we haven’t seen the influence McConnell has outside his role of majority leader.

RELATED: For Former Senator Tom Daschle, Marijuana Reform Matters ‘For My Grandchildren’

We imagine that the same reasons he has for refusing the American people money they need to stay alive is part of his motivation for wanting to stop legal marijuana from taking hold. After all, the country stands to benefit from job growth and billions in economic benefit in a taxed and regulated market. Why McConnell thinks that is wrong for the country should be questioned extensively.

Perhaps the Republican should talk to former Speaker of the House John Boehner and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Both of these former political figures have since forged careers in the cannabis industry.


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