With Democratic control of Congress, cannabis legalization is back on the table

Jan 7, 2021

It’s official, as of yesterday the Democrats now control both houses of Congress. As insurrectionists attempted to take over the Capitol Building yesterday while President Trump did nothing, news networks officially called the final senate race of the year for Democrats. In the end, both Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their runoff elections in Georgia, turning the Senate into a 50-50 split, with Vice President Elect Kamala Harris soon to be the deciding vote.

Now that Sen. Chuck Schumer will soon be majority leader, the cannabis community is expecting big things from Congress this year. It’s not too much to argue that full federal legalization my be back on the table.

For those doubters out there, both Senate candidates in Georgia ran on legalization platforms. In July, Ossoff told CNBC: “I won’t just push for decriminalization; I’ll push for nationwide legalization of cannabis.” 

He continued: ”The prohibition of this substance is irrational. It’s hugely expensive. It has a terrible human toll. The fact that there are people doing time for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses while others are getting rich in the cannabis industry is a grave injustice. I’ll fight for outright cannabis legalization, an end to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses and expungement of records for nonviolent cannabis offenses.”

Warnock had similar sentiments. He was quoted earlier this year as saying that people shouldn’t make billions of dollars off the drug while others wallow in prison.

“Marijuana is seen as an illegal substance,” said Warnock. “It’s a terrible irony and we feel it, that right now in America there are some folks who are becoming billionaires for selling the same stuff that’s got our children locked up all across America.”

He continued: “Where is the justice? It’s not enough to decriminalize marijuana. Somebody’s gotta open up the jails and let our children go.”

For their part, NORML appears to be hopeful at the prospect of a Congress that might support cannabis legalization.

“Reform advocates have established over the past two years that we possess the votes in the House of Representatives to remove the cannabis plant from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act to end the failed and cruel policy of federal prohibition and criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal in a statement.

He continued: “Unfortunately, under the GOP Senate leadership, the MORE Act, the SAFE Banking Act, and many other important reform bills were dead on arrival. By contrast, Democratic leaders in the Upper Chamber -- including Senators Schumer, Wyden, Booker, Merkley, Smith, Sanders and others -- have already pledged publicly to debate and advance legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition via descheduling.”

Strekal said the NORML looked forward to working with new Majority LEader Schumer.

“Senator Schumer's ascension to Majority Leader will mark the first time in US history that the upper chamber is led by a Senator who is openly calling for cannabis legalization,” said Strekal in a statement.

He continued. “We look forward to working with soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Schumer and future Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden to advance legislation with haste,” Strekal concluded.

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