For the first time since 2009, the Democratic Party is set to control the US Senate, House of Representatives and the Whitehouse, presenting what many see as the perfect opportunity to finally legalise cannabis at the federal level. The shift in power came after the party’s two candidates emerged victorious in the run-off congressional election in Georgia, boosting the Biden administration’s chances of achieving its agenda. Exactly how much focus the government places on cannabis reform, however, remains to be seen.
New Senate Leader Vows To Legalise Cannabis
Under Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, cannabis reform measures were repeatedly shot down by the Senate, eliminating any possibility of change at the federal level. However, Senator Chuck Schumer, who is expected to be installed as the new Majority Leader for the Democrats, has repeatedly stated his support for reform and has vowed to legalise cannabis.
With two years until the next congressional elections, the New York Senator now has a chance to make good on his word. Victories for Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff over Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Georgia means that the Senate is now split down the middle, with each party holding 50 seats. But with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote in any stalemate, the Democrats now have a key advantage when it comes to passing bills to legalise cannabis.
Both of Georgia’s new Senators have categorically stated their support for such measures, with Warnock being an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs and its racially-skewed consequences. Thirty-three-year-old Ossoff, meanwhile, included marijuana legalisation as part of his proposal in order to secure the support of young voters.
So, Is The US About To Legalise Cannabis?
While the Democratic victory in Georgia is massively advantageous for the prospects of cannabis reform, it’s not yet possible to say whether or not the Biden administration will go all the way and legalise cannabis at the federal level. Even though huge numbers of Americans are now in favour of doing so, and many leading Democrats have nailed their colours to the legalisation mast, the president-elect himself has always been a little wishy-washy on the issue.
Previously a fierce drug warrior during his time as a Senator, Biden has since stated his regret for his prohibitionist stance. One of his key election promises was to decriminalise cannabis and expunge all criminal records relating to marijuana possession, although many senior figures within the party urged him to go further and pledge full legalisation at the federal level.
Though Biden never quite went all out in support of legalisation, Vice President-elect Harris sponsored the Senate version of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which achieved a historic victory in the House of Representatives last month. However, because the Senate was still controlled by the Republicans at the time, it stood little chance of actually becoming law, and will now need to be re-introduced once the new congressional session starts.
Numerous leading Democrats have already begun piling pressure on Biden to make cannabis legalisation a top priority from the moment the 117th Congress begins, yet the president-elect continues to equivocate on the matter. Similarly, Harris has stated that she won’t hassle her new boss to push cannabis legalisation higher up his agenda, leaving a degree of uncertainty over just how much progress will be made in the coming years.
In spite of these frustrations, the victories achieved by Warnock and Ossoff are likely to act as the final pieces of the puzzle in terms of allowing Democrats to have their way over marijuana. It therefore seems almost certain that some sort of bill will be passed to decriminalise or legalise cannabis to some degree at the federal level.