Chuck Schumer needs to sell McConnell on the concept of legal marijuana he expects to sidestep the filibuster and get the Republican majority on board.
There’s little doubt that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is spinning his wheels trying to figure out how he will introduce a comprehensive marijuana reform bill “soon” and actually get it to pass. Although Schumer is technically the long, strong arm of the Hill, he’s learned in a few short months that he doesn’t have the clout to accomplish much if the Republicans continue to stand in the way.
And they will, too, don’t worry about that.
They’re making Schumer’s life miserable this session, and that’s not expected to change when he starts talking about legal weed. But it’s not that he’s up against the entire Republican party. Schumer could quickly legalize marijuana nationwide this year. He just needs to convince Mitch McConnell it’s the right thing to do.
Although McConnell is no longer responsible for dictating which legislation goes to the Senate floor, he can block most Democratic legislation with the filibuster — a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to pass. Furthermore, McConnell still has the political influence to command enough GOP Senators to oppose an issue and cause it to fail. He tells them to jump, and they ask how high. “I don’t necessarily like it, but when he decides to tell his caucus…they mostly fall in line,” Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia told NBC News. “When he tells them, ‘Stick with me,’ they usually do.”
Simply put, Republicans do what McConnell wants.
“We stay with him. He’s a good leader. He’s a good negotiator. He understands the program and the Senate as well as anybody I’ve ever known,” said Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama.
This means all Schumer needs to further his idea of legal weed in the United States is get McConnell to side with the issue. But that is easier said than done. To begin with, McConnell is intent on crippling the Democratic agenda this year. He recently said, “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.” Also, McConnell is not a fan of marijuana, nor is he the slightest bit interested in passing a bill that legalizes it. Last year, McConnell criticized House Democrats for last minute efforts to legalize weed during the pandemic.
Schumer is presumably scurrying around the Hill right now, trying to scrounge up support for his marijuana bill when it is finally introduced. He’s been talking a lot of smack about it for months, which has given cannabis advocates hope that legal weed is right around the corner. It’s not. Schumer needs to sell McConnell on the concept if he expects to sidestep the filibuster and get the Republican majority on board.
Everyone, except for Schumer, seems to understand that this is the only way. Yet, bringing an end to the filibuster is all that is being discussed as an option. And while the demise of the filibuster may be long overdue, it’s not an immediate answer to forever cannabis reform.
All legislation passed in a scenario where the filibuster has been destroyed would undoubtedly lead to those policies being repealed once the Republicans are back in power. Senator Cory Booker, who is working with Schumer on nationwide marijuana legalization, said recently that he was working on getting the 10 Republican votes needed to skirt the filibuster. In reality, the gateway to the super critical 10 votes is through Senator McConnell. Unfortunately, until he’s a believer in bud, federal marijuana legalization is not going to happen.