There are many factors that contribute to the timeline of the federal legalization of cannabis. We must take into account politics, the economy, government, as well as any other pressing cultural issues occurring at the same time. Here’s what we know so far regarding cannabis’ legal status in the United States. There have definitely been some noteworthy changes in recent months.
The Impact of COVID-19
If it weren’t for 2020’s global pandemic, we may have not reached such a tipping point toward federal legalization. Many governors believe that legalization in their respective states would enhance the economy that was so badly damaged due to COVID. Most recently, New York and Virginia passed recreational laws—just in time for 4/20. Other states like South Dakota, Michigan, and Wisconsin are still working out the details but are closer than ever to legalization.
The Status in Michigan
Even though Michigan legalized recreational cannabis in 2018, it remains illegal at the federal level. The DEA still designates it as a Schedule I controlled substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer fully supports federal legalization, and has even “taken a stand in support of marijuana legalization nationwide, urging passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would lift legal limitations on banks and allows institutions to bank with state-licensed cannabis businesses.”
Progress in New Mexico
As of April 12, 2021, cannabis now recreationally legal in the state of New Mexico, making it the 17th state to pass such laws. “Under the law, adults 21 and older will be able to use and grow marijuana for recreational purposes. The state will launch a legal, regulated market, expected to start in 2022, with cannabis products taxed at levels beyond the state’s sales tax,” according to Vox.
If you look at a map of cannabis legalization in the United State, you see that the most progress has been made along the West Coast.
- New Mexico
The Status in Congress
According to multiple news reports, we’re simply playing the waiting game when it comes to federal legalization. Media outlets claim that Congress is on the verge of a grand decision. Still, some concerns remain. Politico claims that a handful of Democrats still need convincing that federal legalization is the right move.
“I don’t support legalizing marijuana,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said in an interview. “We’re in the middle of an opioid epidemic, and the research that I’ve seen suggests that that is a way that more people get into drugs.” Fiar point, but doesn’t Shaheen know that cannabis can in fact help with opioid addiction in certain patients? This is a topic we’ve previously discussed on our blog.
Even with some Democrats not on board yet, Schumer made it his goal to federally legalize cannabis by 4/20 of 2022. “Hopefully, the next time this unofficial holiday, 4/20, rolls around, our country will have made progress in addressing the massive overcriminalization of marijuana in a meaningful and comprehensive way,” Schumer said on the floor of the upper chamber.
What About President Biden?
We don’t have the words directly from the horse’s mouth but leaders close to President Biden say he supports federal legalization, even if he won’t use that specific language. According to Marijuana Movement, “Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) says that President Joe Biden is already where he needs to be to get a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition enacted into law—even if he personally opposes legalization.”
We know, we know. That sounds incredibly confusing. How can Biden support the end of prohibition without supporting legalization? At the end of the day, COVID may have a bigger impact on federal legalization than politics. It may be beneficial to the US to legalize cannabis so we can financially bounce back from this pandemic.