US Cannabis Reform During the Lame Duck Session? The Results of the Midterms May Determine It

The so-called “Red Wave” encountered the “Blue Wall” in yesterday’s American midterm elections. What does this bode for US federal cannabis reform before the end of 2022?

For foreigners, the American political system is hopelessly complicated. Non-Americans know that Presidents are elected, or face re-election every four years. They might also know that post-Franklin Delano Roosevelt, those serving in the White House are limited to two terms in office.

The role of the midterms, not to mention “lame duck sessions” of Congress – namely the time between the biannual November elections and the end of the session, are less clear. Congressional sessions last two years. Bills that are unsuccessfully introduced – in other words, do not become law – must be reintroduced every two years as a result of this.

According to both Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), there is a chance that the pending cannabis banking and justice bill could pass the Senate during this period of time and further, be sent to Joe Biden for signature.

The question is, how likely is it, especially given the results of the midterms, which appear to have surprised just about everyone in that the pro-Trump wave that many predicted (or feared) would occur, appears to have been a bit less grandiose than it promised to be.

How Impactful Could US Reform Be Elsewhere?

The current bill has been described as everything from “revolutionary” to “good incremental first step,” by both the industry and advocates alike. There is, as is evident by now, no magic bullet cannabis legalization legislation, anywhere, that solves more problems than it creates. This is certainly true on the state level in the US. It is also true in Canada.

In Germany right now, if not Europe beyond that, a move by the US to legalize its own market would send a strong sign that the EU needs to get its ducks in a row. The rumors coming out of Berlin for the last several weeks are that German reform, no matter how revolutionary a template, may not impress decision-makers in Brussels in its current form.

With a US legalization bill past the gates, this would help the entire conversation, starting with the entire conversation about compliance with international drug treaties.

It is certainly overdue for the US to get a handle on some basic issues at the heart of the legal and legitimizing industry, starting with banking.

Beyond Europe, however, this would certainly signal to the rest of the American hemisphere that if North America is able to do it, so should everyone else.

It may well also influence conversations in other parts of the world, including Asia.

What Happens If the Bill Fails?

Biden would do well to build on a strong Democratic showing in these elections by making sure that the momentum from the closing session continues strong until the end of the year. The Republicans, however, fresh from electoral snubs, may not be so keen to help the Democrats pass this legislation, giving Biden a win in his column, no matter the choppy waters.

However, it well also may fail to pass the Senate, or the reconciliation with the House version may also fail. If this is the case, there will be no bill to sign. If this is the case, both chambers of Congress will have to reintroduce cannabis legalization legislation from scratch. This almost guarantees that the entire discussion will be front and center in the next Presidential election.

When it comes to issues, cannabis legalization has not always been a winning campaign issue for Democrats. Indeed, many of them have tread carefully around the topic for the last decade, including Barack Obama. However, what this will do is crystalize burning issues into a national debate that has so far at least, not managed to formally crystalize into something effective.

It is certainly, however, shaping up to be a roller coaster of a fall for cannabis legalization, just about everywhere.


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