The U.S. Will Not Legalize Cannabis Anytime Soon… Unless…

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Serving his third deployment with Seal Team 3, this time in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2012, Dan Crenshaw was incapacitated by an IED – an Improvised Explosive Device – that detonated in front of him rendering him temporarily blind. One eye was surgically repaired, the other surgically removed, but Crenshaw still managed to Charlie Mike and served two additional tours – five total – before retiring as a Lt. Commander after 10 loyal years in the United States Navy.

In 2018, Crenshaw was elected to the United States Congress representing Texas’s 2nd Congressional District for the Republican Party. Though he tows the party line on many mainstream wedge issues like immigration, abortion, and healthcare, he is younger than most of his Conservative colleagues and he gives the impression that he hopes to return our government to some long lost ideal of bipartisan efficiency. But when it comes to the issue of cannabis, Congressman Crenshaw reveals a level of confusion that is, unfortunately, right on par with most of his political peers, and gets right to the root of why any acceptable end game for federal marijuana legalization will likely remain a long shot for some time to come.

In an extended interview on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast on Tuesday, Crenshaw noticeably cringed when the topic of cannabis was raised and it quickly became apparent why. The entire clip is riddled with half-baked hemming and hawing about “waiting for the numbers to come in from Colorado” but overall, Crenshaw expressed a distinct lack of support for recreational cannabis legalization nationwide.

Then Crenshaw lobbed up the easiest pitch right down the middle for Rogan who, to be fair, is not a journalist, when he asked the popular host what benefit there could possibly be to federal recreational cannabis legalization. Oh baby, ask us that question Joe! But you might need to give us more than three hours to lay it all out! Here he has a disabled military veteran quite literally wearing a black eyepatch sitting across the table from him and Rogan failed to bring up the VA and the embarrassing way that our active duty servicemembers and vets are discriminated against when it comes to weed, and the incredibly dangerous prescriptions that they are being given as an alternative.

They even steered the discussion directly into the opioid crisis and neither of them was able to make the connection to cannabis. Congressman Crenshaw vowed that he had not made up his mind on the subject yet, but said that he would prefer to see the nation legalize the plant for medicinal purposes but not for all adults to use. He said he’d like to see recreational weed limited to state laws, as they are now, but even in the progressive state of California, our pets have better access to legal weed than our military vets.

It should be noted that in another recent episode of his podcast, Rogan told a guest that if humans did not have weapons, “black widows as big as giraffes would be real.”

So we can’t really blame Joe for dropping the ball on the cannabis questions, but it is quite literally Crenshaw’s job to be as familiar as possible with the issues he is legislating over. In his short career in Congress so far, Crenshaw has proven to be an unreliable ally for the plant, failing to support or outright voting against vulnerable policies that would slowly expand the rights of cannabis users. . . and he is the centrist of the party!

This is just one example of why we believe that federal cannabis legalization may be further away than a lot of people think. However, the way the world works these days, you never know and there are some key ingredients coming together that could speed up the timeline, but what that might look like is sort of a scary thought.

OLD & OLDER

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If the 2020 presidential election were held today, all major polls indicate that we’d be looking at a cranky matchup between 76 year old Joe Biden and 73 year old Donald Trump. These are two powerful men who have felt no need to come off the sidelines in favor of cannabis in seven-plus decades so if those are the choices we are left with a year from November, many cannabis advocates will find it hard to find motivation to rock the vote.  Of course, there are many reasons and issues that should help to shape your vote but there is a good chance that the momentum currently behind the cannabis movement could stall out under either potential administration.

Biden, as you know, served as Vice President under Barack Obama for eight years. Before that he was a United States Senator for  36 years helping to shape our nation’s laws while millions of Americans were being locked up for simple cannabis possession from coast to coast. In fairness, Biden left the Senate in 2009, half a decade before Colorado and Washington passed their versions of adult use legalization, and nobody in DC aside from Bernie was willing to walk the plank for pot.

His aspirations to return to the White House, however, are long in the making and so the fact that it took him so long to come up with a public plan for how to treat cannabis was suspect. Then when he dropped it, the plan was met with a resounding sigh from all angles. Even though there are an unprecedented 23 candidates vying for the presidential nomination on the Democratic side alone, Biden stands alone as the only one that does not support full-scale legalization nationwide.

Instead, ol’ Joe is pushing a half-baked decriminalization/reclassification/expungement plan that barely tips the scales as ‘better than nothing’. There are exactly zero mentions of “cannabis” or “marijuana” on Biden’s campaign website which should come as no surprise considering that he is considered to have been a chief architect in the “War on Drugs” while in the Senate. If elected as president, we can be sure that Biden will keep our right to get high among his lowest priorities.

Opposing him in this white-mare scenario would be the current president, Donald Trump, whose exact stance on cannabis is unknown but his propensity to empower staunch weed-haters like Jeff Sessions, William Barr, and countless others hasn’t done legal cannabis any favors so far. But if internal Republican polling shows the president is in trouble at some point in the next year and a half, it is entirely possible that he could pull the pot card and try to attack Biden from his left flank on the topic.

IF THE GRIM REAPER GOES GREEN. . .

According to a CBS News poll earlier this year, 56% of Americans surveyed said their preferred presidential candidate's support for legal weed wouldn't impact their vote. 21% said they're more likely to vote for a candidate who supports legalizing cannabis, and 21% said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports federal recreational legalization. When you break that down it demonstrates that a majority of the public may have an opinion on legal weed, but their vote for president won’t be swayed by a candidate’s stance on the subject. This apathy is the result of decades of negative stigma surrounding the plant.

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At the state-level, cannabis legalization can move the political needle though. Everyone knows that nothing happens in the Republican Party without the blessing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and despite his newfound love of the hemp plant, McConnell has remained firm in his opposition to legal cannabis. McConnell is up for reelection in November of 2020 just like Trump, and he too faces the prospect of being unemployed and out of power in January of 2021. If things get desperate enough, could the Bluegrass State go green?

This scenario really only works against Joe Biden, though. Any other Democratic candidate will outflank GOP efforts to ambush them on the issue. The good news is that nobody has ever called me for a poll about anything so their accuracy is not set in stone and we still have some time before next year’s elections for Biden to somehow bow out of the contest.

CAVEAT EMPTOR
(AKA BUYER BEWARE AKA CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR)

There is so much hard work being done by cannabis advocates in Washington DC and across the country to help shape sensible cannabis reform. As quickly as the nation has been moving – state by state – in favor of cannabis legalization, it may seem as though the plant will be free by next 4/20. Added to the peer pressure is the fact that our neighbs to the north in Canada already beat us to it when they passed nationwide weed legalization last October.

But you need only scratch at the surface of the Canadian cannabis market to reveal a rickety framework of regulation, a deep pool of corporate corruption, totally lackluster legal revenues, and a thriving black market.

What will we do differently? How will we avoid the pitfalls they have been crippled by? The Canadian market is not even as large as that of California – this is going to be complicated to get right.

Just look at the rushed and ignorant roll out of “legal hemp” here in the US since Trump and McConnell passed their signature Farm Bill last December. They totally descheduled any cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC content but forgot about CBD. Now, more than seven months later, the DEA and the FDA have no idea what to do about the non-intoxicating compound and cops nationwide can’t tell the difference between a plant with 0.29% THC and one with 0.31% THC.

As we alluded to at the beginning of this article, there are dozens of valid reasons why we need to legalize cannabis federally. We are proud to know and support some of the most influential cannabis advocates who are fighting every day to make sure that those reasons get satisfied by an eventual, inevitable effort to legalize weed nationwide. Rushing that process now, after so much time and effort has been put into it, could be catastrophic for the cannabis culture as we know it. The last thing we need is a 50-state version of Prop 64. . . or worse.