Various localities’ ability to become “laboratories of democracy” (to an extent) and implement their own laws is a rather unique and interesting concept not employed by all nations. In the United States, states moving forward with their own cannabis laws have been a driving force to change public opinion and create momentum for federal policy changes that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. The Obama administration wouldn’t have implemented a policy allowing state-regulated cannabis without federal interference unless enough states moved forward with their own laws first. The Trump administration has largely followed Obama’s lead on the issue, and more federal reforms are on the horizon after more states have passed progressive laws. Now that Oregon is poised to become the first state to allow cannabis exports (after Governor Kate Brown’s signature and federal acquiescence) how quickly will the United States follow suit?
As Johnny Green writes in Leafly, Oregon has set in motion the potential for federal change, either through federal law or a simple policy pronouncement:
Just as the Obama administration issued the Cole memo in order to provide some protections for in-state cannabis commerce, so too could the Trump administration issue a directive to allow—or at least not prosecute—interstate cannabis commerce. That’s a far more streamlined process than getting a bill through Congress, though it’s still far from inevitable. Trump himself has taken an inconsistent approach to cannabis reform while in office.
Passage of Oregon’s export bill means the state’s cannabis industry can now start lobbying the Trump administration in addition to lobbying Congress. Since many states could ultimately benefit from interstate cannabis commerce, it’s expected the cannabis industry in general would join in the effort.
Cannabis exports may not begin with the governor’s signature, but the bill’s becoming law would still be a very significant event. The measure builds momentum for federal interstate reform at the federal level and builds momentum in other states. The first victory is always the hardest in politics, and Oregon has now taken care of that.
The bipartisan STATES Act, which would officially leave it up to the states to craft their own cannabis laws (as they do with alcohol) has garnered a lot of momentum, but it is difficult to imagine Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowing the bill to have a vote, as he’s declared himself the “Grim Reaper” killing progressive bills. However, McConnell could lose his leadership post if the Democrats take the Senate, or he could lessen is hardline stance after the elections if the GOP remains in control, or the Trump or next presidential administration could simply issue a new federal directive to kick-start interstate cannabis commerce. With the rapid ascent of the cannabis movement in the U.S., exporting to other nations could certainly occur in the near future, shaking up the international industry.
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