We are living in high times, folks. Support for the legalization of marijuana is at all-time record numbers. In fact, the latest poll from Gallup shows that nearly 70 percent of Americans support legalization and that the majority of folks from most key demographic groups (Age, Sex, Income, etc.) are in favor as well. 36 U.S. states and 4 territories now have medical marijuana legislation, and 17 have completely legalized for recreational use. The mighty herb is here to stay.
So why hasn’t the United States legalized at the federal level yet? The government is supposed to represent the will of the people, and the people are clearly in favor of taking marijuana completely off the controlled substance list and paving the way for access at all levels. Will the new Biden administration push legalization through anytime soon? After all, during his campaign, he did pledge to end marijuana criminalization and expunge all former arrests.
So is federal legalization just around the corner? Well, it’s not quite that simple.
With all this public support, why is Biden still opposed to legalization?
In February of 2021, democratic senators unveiled sweeping and revolutionary legislation that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana and start implementing restorative justice measures for those that have been unjustly punished for decades. This sounded very similar to the plan called for in Biden’s campaign promises.
But just last month Biden’s press secretary announced that the president’s opposition to cannabis legalization “had not changed.” He does not support the bill put forward by the senate democrats and instead is merely supporting the right of individual states to legalize marijuana as they see fit. In other words, national marijuana legalization is stalled at the highest level of government. While the senators behind the legalization bill, like majority leader Chuck Schumer, say they are going to go ahead with the legislation with or without support from Biden.
So are we at a stalemate?
What are the real reasons holding up federal marijuana legalization?
The Biden administration has been criticized for having an “uneven” response the marijuana legalization, despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans want it. In March of 2021, several White House staffers were even let go after admitting to past marijuana use in their background check form. The fact that Vice President Kamala Harris has openly talked about her past cannabis use, even saying she likes to smoke it while listening to Snoop Dogg, makes this look hypercritical coming from the current administration.
So are there deeper reasons why Biden is against legalization?
According to Biden’s policy director, Stef Feldman, the real reason that the president is hesitant to legalize marijuana is because of public health issues.
“As science ends up with more conclusive evidence regarding the impact of marijuana, I think he would look at that data. But he’s being asked to make a decision right now. This is where the science guides him,” she said in an interview with The Atlantic.
For those of us that know cannabis, though, this is a ridiculous statement. There have been studies after studies in the last couple of decades that show that marijuana is safer than many other legal substances like alcohol or cigarettes and even much safer than many prescription drugs, including painkillers.
What it sounds like to many is that Biden is the victim of his generation, a population that grew up under the influence of the propaganda of the War on Drugs. And in fact, the Gallup study that we mentioned at the beginning of the article shows that support for marijuana legalization wanes the most in the oldest age group. And Biden is definitely in that group.
So what’s on the horizon for marijuana legalization in the USA on a federal level?
The one thing we know for sure is that the level of support for the legalization of marijuana on the federal level, which is already at a historic high, is just going to continue to grow. And that’s because as more and more people experience the benefits of the herb, demand soon follows. With important states like New York, which just legalized recreational use in April of 2021, entering the market, more and more people will be pushing for action at the federal level in the year ahead.
With Democrats in control of both the house and senate, and with marijuana bills passing in both, we also expect to see the pressure mounting from within the government as well. At the state level, if legalization keeps rolling along like dominos, experts expect every state in the union to have some sort of legalization legislation on the books by 2024, just three years from now.
What that means is that we may very well be facing a situation where marijuana is technically legal everywhere in the United States but is still prohibited in federal laws and at the national level. This will affect both interstate commerce and international markets, which are already taking off around the world as nations that have legalized federally, like Canada and Mexico, are creating extensive import and export networks. By the time the USA legalizes, will it be too late to get in on the game? Only time will tell.
How does this affect CBD in the United States?
Hemp-derived CBD is actually legal at the federal level and has been since the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was passed under the Trump administration. But CBD laws also change by state, and many areas have strict regulations on what can be sold or marketed. Recently, the FDA has cracked down on companies that make claims about the medical effects of CBD that have not been proven.