Although the election is over for most of America, there’s still enough of one taking place to make a difference — especially when it comes to legalizing marijuana in the United States.
Interestingly enough, the fate of federal cannabis reform now rests on the outcome of a special election slated for early January. Georgia voters must decide whether Republicans or Democrats will fill the U.S. Senate seats. Whoever wins will determine if marijuana gets a fair shake next year in Congress.
A runoff election is taking place because Georgia requires at least 50% of the votes before a candidate can be declared a winner. None of the candidates claimed such a victory in the November election. This means Senator Kelly Loeffler, the Republican incumbent, and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock are back in battle again come January. And so are Senator David Perdue, the Republican incumbent, and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. The two Senate seats up for grabs could make the Democrats king of Capitol Hill at the beginning of next year. And with that crown comes the ability to further marijuana reform and end federal prohibition.
It’s no secret that Democrats are the most likely to run with a bill aimed at legalizing marijuana. In fact, the U.S. House is in the process right now of approving one that would take the herb all the way and make it part of legitimate commerce. Only the Republican-dominated Senate has stopped progress at every turn. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, the gatekeeper to the upper chamber, has killed every pot-related measure to come out of the House. He won’t even give one a hearing. “I do not have any plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana,” McConnell said in 2018.
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If the Republicans keep the two Senate seats, we can expect more of the same in 2021 and beyond. However, if the Democrats flip them, next year’s Congress will come with a whole new dynamic. Anything approved by the House would move swiftly through the Senate. Government would, for once, have an easier path to getting things done for the American people.
Even legal weed.
Honestly, we should be to the point in this country when the idea of legalizing marijuana isn’t such a daunting task. Not only has more than half the nation legalized the leaf for medicinal and recreational purposes, but the latest national public opinion poll also shows that around 705 of the population is on board. And it’s not like every Democrat and Republican are fighting over whether it is right or wrong.
Legal weed has become a mostly bipartisan issue over the past few years. It’s just that career politicians still have enough clout on the Hill to keep anything from happening. But that could all change if the Democrats find their way in control of the Senate.
There’s still no guarantee that a Democratic win in Georgia, which would make them leaders of both the House and Senate, will ensure marijuana legalization gets done. It probably wouldn’t. President-elect Joe Biden is still against moving forward with full-blown legalization, and wants to try decriminalization instead.
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There are also other critical issues that need to be addressed in the next session that Democrats will want to get locked into place before potentially losing their control in the midterms. Marijuana might not get a lot of stage time in 2021, but it would fare a lot better with Democrats running the show than another split Congress.
That alone would ensure that federal marijuana legalization remains off the table until at least 2023.