How the 2020 Election Could Affect US Cannabis Law

How the 2020 Election Could Affect US Cannabis Law

The 2020 election may be more than a year away, but people in the US and around the world are already talking about it. We’ve just watched the first round of Democratic primary debates, which may leave cannabis enthusiasts wondering – how will this election affect cannabis law in the US? Here’s the relevant cannabis news surrounding the 2020 election, and what you should know before you vote.

 

Many – but not all – Candidates Support Legalization

With recreational marijuana already legal in many states, there’s been a big push towards nationwide legalization in the United States. Most of the presidential candidates that have already been announced support federal legalization, and some have been part of the legalization movement for years, like Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker. Sanders has been a supporter of legalization over the last two decades and has regularly made it a part of his campaign platforms. Booker is the chief sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act, and he has been an outspoken critic of the war on drugs for most of his career, far before many other Democrats were speaking out about the issue. Even candidates who haven’t had direct experience with marijuana during their political careers, like Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris, are coming out in support of it now that the election is approaching.

Kamala Harris worked as a prosecutor and attorney general in California at the beginning of her career, and actively targeted drug dealers. However, since becoming a senator, she has become much more favorable towards legalization and open about her positions. She even sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act in the Senate. Elizabeth Warren is another prominent candidate whose views on the issue have evolved – although she didn’t support legalization in Massachusetts in 2016, she’s since sponsored bills to reform cannabis law through her work in the Senate.

The two most noteworthy candidates who oppose federal legalization are Joe Biden and Donald Trump. While Trump hasn’t said much about his personal views on the issue, his administration has taken action over the past few years to block legalization and decriminalization, and his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, took major action against marijuana while in office. Sessions moved to expand prosecution efforts against marijuana users. However, his personal vagueness on the issue has led many to speculate that he may switch his position as attitudes towards legalization grow more favorable in the United States.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, opposes severe penalties against marijuana use, stating that he believes the penalties should be appropriate for the severity of the crime. However, he is the only Democratic candidate who is opposed to the federal legalization of marijuana, citing concerns about its potential as a gateway drug. Biden has a long history of moderate-to-left positions, and he who is actively targeting a moderate audience, so it’s unsurprising that his position towards marijuana legalization is still fairly hostile. As the election continues to grow closer, voters who support legalization should always check their candidate’s record on it before voting.

 

More States Plan on Legalizing

The 2018 midterms saw a shift in the political makeup of the country, and part of that was a wave of new governors that are much more pro-legalization than anything we’ve seen in the past. Because of this, it’s possible that several states could legalize cannabis in the next year or two by having governors sign cannabis reform bills into law. These states could also potentially see legalization measures on their 2020 ballots if legalization hasn’t been put in place by then. Illinois was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2019, and other states that may do so include Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Vermont. Even in very conservative states, attitudes towards legalization are starting to change. Ultra-conservative Utah legalized medical marijuana in 2018, and governors in Kansas and Texas are looking at the issue from a new perspective.

 

More Local Legislators Supporting Marijuana

Research suggests that a little less than two-thirds of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. This means that an increasing number of people are actively looking for candidates that support legalization. On the local level, we are starting to see shifts in attitudes towards marijuana among politicians, certainly among Democrats, but among Republicans as well. While we’re too far out from the election to predict which states and cities will have pro-marijuana candidates for Congress and other local offices, it’s safe to say that many of them will. This could dramatically shift legalization efforts throughout the country, and could even shift the way marijuana is handled in states where it is already legal.

 

Regulation Changes in States that have Already Legalized

Even in states where marijuana is already legal, there’s still more work to be done to make access to cannabis products safer and more convenient for adults who want them. This is particularly important for medical patients – many people who suffer from chronic diseases find marijuana incredibly helpful for managing their symptoms. It’s also important that people who want to enjoy marijuana recreationally can do so safely and comfortably. In Illinois, which only legalized in May 2019, there are already efforts to allow smoking in some public places, like restaurants and bars. The current wording in the bill is unclear, and it’s likely that there will be further legislation into 2020 to clarify where smoking is and isn’t legal. Colorado and other states are also investigating what it would mean to allow marijuana consumption in public places, and where it is and isn’t safe. In fact, Colorado just passed a measure to legalize marijuana cafes. This has been a big debate in areas where marijuana tourism is popular, because visitors will often buy marijuana without a reliable place to enjoy it. We’ll likely see this come up as a relevant issue in the 2020 election.

Another issue that has been plaguing cannabis brands is the fact that many banks will not do business with them, limiting them to only cash transactions. This is because marijuana is not legal on a national level yet, so banks that do business in multiple states with varying states of legalization do not want to risk the potential legal consequences of working with cannabis companies. California is currently taking steps to remedy that, with the California Senate voting to create cannabis banks sponsored by the state government. It’s likely that other states where recreational cannabis is legal will look into this option as well.

It’s an exciting time for cannabis legalization in the United States. All eyes are on the 2020 election to see which states will legalize or even expand their existing access to marijuana. It’s likely that plenty of exciting changes will happen between now and the election, so it’s important that voters continue to track the issue and pay attention to their candidates’ positions on the issue. Informed voting is one of the best ways to make sure that cannabis law best serves the people that actually use it.

 

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Sources:

https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/2020-presidential-candidates-marijuana-positions

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomangell/2018/12/26/these-states-are-most-likely-to-legalize-marijuana-in-2019/#27d4f8625add

About six-in-ten Americans support marijuana legalization

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/21/california-senate-passes-bill-to-create-state-chartered-cannabis-banks.html

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