Fresh on the heels of New York’s landmark legalization of recreational cannabis and what could mark a critical turning point for the cannabis industry in the US, US Democratic Senator Cory Booker has reiterated his belief that President Joe Biden has the power to get a federal marijuana legalization bill signed into law,
The New Jersey state senator – a longtime supporter of decriminalization – has even suggested that Biden isn’t truly opposed to legalization – despite his previous stance on the issue – and is, in fact, determined to implement marijuana reforms that would address the many injustices of the government’s failed War on Drugs, while also helping to boost the nation’s burgeoning economy.
The announcement follows Booker’s recent introduction of a bill – known as the Marijuana Justice Act – that would see an end to federal marijuana prohibition and fully legalize the plant nationwide.
Furthermore, during this year’s 4/20 celebrations, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer – another vocal activist for changes in cannabis laws – reiterated his call to Congress for restorative justice for those previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes and his desires for decriminalization, saying that he hopes for an end to the drug’s prohibition at a federal level by as early as next year.
Speaking from the upper chamber of the Senate Floor last week, Schumer commented that “hopefully, the next time this unofficial holiday, 4/20, rolls around, our country will have made progress in addressing the massive overcriminalization of marijuana in a meaningful and comprehensive way.”
But what are the real chances that federal legalization could occur in a not too distant future?
Laying Down the Law
Second only to the US Constitution, federal laws apply to everyone in the United States, overriding state and local legislation. Cannabis over 0.3% THC remains illegal under federal US law, which currently considers it to have no accepted medical value and a high potential for abuse and dependence. Despite multiple efforts to reschedule the plant under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is still currently classified as a Schedule 2 substance alongside far more harmful substances like heroin, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.
In stark contrast, many individual states permit the use, sale, and possession of cannabis under a variety of circumstances. Recreational use is currently legalized in 17 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia, while a total of 36, plus four territories, have approved it for medical purposes. Oregon became the first US state to decriminalize cannabis back in 1973, while in 2012, Colorado and Washington were the first to sanction the recreational use of marijuana.
This legal minefield has left users and suppliers extremely vulnerable to prosecution, even in areas where the drug is otherwise legally sold and consumed. The nation’s growing cannabis industry also faces massive hurdles in transporting its products across state lines and accessing the country’s federally regulated banking system.