The contentious 2016 midterm elections are now behind us (mostly, as final votes are still being counted in several places) and politicians and pundits will now debate what the results mean. The Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives, including defeating the Reefer Madness prohibitionist Pete Sessions, but there was no huge #BlueWave as Donald Trump and the Republicans saw their majority in the United States Senate increase by a few seats. While the implications of our now divided federal government will need to be hashed out over the coming years, we can safely say that a Green Wave is washing over the United States as cannabis was a big winner last night.
While North Dakota’s extremely liberal legalization proposal didn’t pass in a very conservative state (maybe try adding just a few possession limits next time), bellwether Michigan became the 10th state to legalize cannabis, while the conservative states of Missouri and Utah passed medical marijuana measures. As Wired opined, there will be more pressure placed on Congress to pass sensible federal reforms:
“Momentum is gaining for change in Congress to allow states to determine their own marijuana policies,” says Morgan Fox, media relations director at the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Two thirds of the country wants marijuana to be legal, and politicians are ignoring that at their peril.”
This midterm election’s outcome is relevant to more than just the end game of dissolving the federal prohibition of cannabis. The momentum could also help the states that have already voted to legalize the drug but remain hamstrung by federal regulation. Over the summer, for instance, the Senate Appropriations Committee torpedoed an amendment that would have allowed banks to work with cannabis companies. This, of course, is a major headache for the industry: If a cultivator or distributor or dispensary can’t find a bank to work with, it’s kinda hard to do business.
States where marijuana is legal are also currently blocked from helping veterans gain better access to cannabis. In September, Congress stripped another amendment that would have allowed physicians affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana in states where it’s already legal.
Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer and Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher had competing visions on which party would be best to move forward on legalization, and now Blumenauer’s blueprint will be put to the test. Not only did Blumenauer’s party take control of the House, but Rohrabacher seems to have narrowly lost his Orange County, California, seat as the Democratic Blue Wave did make inroads into California.
Personally, I agree with Rep. Blumenauer that Democratic control of the House will be better for the cannabis legalization movement, but Rohrabacher’s likely electoral loss leaves a huge void as he was the go-to Republican on the issue. (Both Blumenauer and Rohrabacher are previous speakers at the International Cannabis Business Conference and the ICBC held a historic bipartisan fundraiser for the two legalization supporters.)
No matter how one may feel about the 2018 midterm results, it is obvious that the cannabis legalization movement is in a better position than ever before and we have an opportunity to pass real federal legislation to expand medical use to all veterans, end the draconian 280E tax code that unfairly taxes regulated cannabis businesses, and end federal prohibition altogether.
While positive marijuana law reforms will face an uphill battle with Republican Mitch McConnell still leading the Senate, but we have GOP allies such as Colorado’s Corey Gardner and Kentucky’s Rand Paul in the chamber, and Donald Trump has stated that he’s inclined to support the bipartisan STATES Act that will end federal interference with states’ cannabis laws. But we can’t count on the politicians in Washington to act on their own, we must force them to act. But our odds and political standing have never been better. Let’s keep the momentum of the Green Wave going.
Learn the latest about cannabis politics, business, and culture at the next International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, California, on February 7-8. Don’t miss your opportunity to network with top investors, entrepreneurs, and advocates from the Golden State and around the world, while saving money, by purchasing your early-bird tickets by January 18th. After San Francisco, the ICBC will be traveling to Barcelona, Spain, on March 14th for a special event with Spannabis, before returning to Berlin, Germany, on March 31st-April 2nd. Stay tuned for some more exciting destinations soon!