The Biggest Hurdle to Federal Marijuana Legalization? State Legalization Killed the Urgency to the Outside World
Sometimes you have to watch what you wish for in life.
The struggle to legalize cannabis at the Federal is a monumental push by tens of thousands of people in the USA, but the main blocking point may not be President Trump, a Republican Senate, or even a Conservative voting-base in states President Trump needs to win for re-elecation.
It may be the fact that 39 states have already decriminalized the plant and/or have some form of medical marijuana programs in place that is working well.
Wait, the reason we aren’t seeing a big push for legalization at the Federal level is that we already have 85% of the US population living in an area that already has some form or legal cannabis, whether a medical program, a recreational program, or even a decriminalization law change?
Within the cannabis industry Federal legalization is seen as essential (no pun intended with the current “essential” labeling of medical marijuana right now in some states during COVID-19) because it will open up massive funding channels, bank accounts, merchant processing avenues, and even create Federal tax revenue. If you live in the cannabis bubble that anyone in this niche plunges into on a daily basis, we have a hard time understanding how the Federal government WOULDN’T legalize cannabis, as the commercial used to say, “it’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of the world”.
Now, if you remove yourself from the cannabis universe and look at the situation as a bi-partisan, neither pro-nor-con marijuana legalization voter or citizen, you just shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, if you really want it, most of America can get it in a legal fashion by jumping through a few hoops, and of course, the black market is booming with legalization in so many states promoting growing, shipping, and home horticulture projects. When 85% of the population can actually get the product through state-legal channels and 100% of the population can get it through unlicensed channels now, where is the big urgency to get a Federal law change?
The problem for the cannabis industry is that they are right. Most Americans can get medical marijuana now if they really want to, and with the new push for telemedicine medical marijuana certification during COVID-19 quarantines (see Massachusetts telemedicine applicants when Gov. Baker declared medical marijuana an “essential” item, yet closed all recreational sales in the state) as over 8,000 MMJ card applications came in online in the past 30 days. Take recreational away, we will just go get our medical cards and pay the extra fees. Is it a fair system to all economic levels as doctor fees and state fees can push the sign-up cost to over $ 200? Nope, but if you want it you can get it, or get it from someone who has a medical card who can go buy for you. The other obvious choice is to turn to black market suppliers and just buy it from a variety of options that are now doing delivery and shipping products through the the mail. With the US Post Office on the verge of bankruptcy and with so many legal states shipping hemp, the task is overwhelming for the Post Office to try and stop marijuana through its distribution system.
But what about Federal tax revenue and job growth? Everyone keeps saying the post-COVID-19 recession could be a springboard to Federal legalization as the Federal government will look for ways to create jobs and tax revenue ASAP. While this theory holds true if we get a long and deep recession, we wrote a piece here based on the 10th man theory in World War Z saying, what if that train of thought is wrong? 3 Ideas working against that theory are that Trump won’t legalize marijuana and risk losing his Conservative base over a few undecided liberal voters. The second problem is that if we get a sharp V-shaped recovery (short painful recession with a quick recover) there would be no dire need for those new cannabis jobs and tax revenue. The recovery is doing just fine without legalizing weed, thank you. The third problem is that Joe Biden wins the presidency, and while a Democrat, he is no fan of cannabis and has long history of supporting harsh drug laws. The farthest he has come on this issue is saying marijuana should be decriminalized and not legalized. Even with Bernie Sanders dropping out of the presidential race, Biden met Sanders and Bernie said marijuana legalization is not one of the issues he sees Biden changing his tune on to win Bernie supporters over to his camp. He thinks he can win them anyway since his name is not Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, the best avenue for cannabis Federal laws to change is a deep and painful recession or depression. The worst it gets the more pressure will be put on the Federal government for job creation and tax revenue due to a massive, ballooning Federal deficit. The worse it gets, the better chance at Federal marijuana legalization. If we reach a point where “anything goes so throw it against the wall” then marijuana legalization is a real possibility. The demand for the product has held up extremely well during the COVID-19 stress, it could great a booming industry with over 1,000,000 total jobs, and it will create tax revenue as there will almost certainly be a Federal tax added to cannabis sales.
The real problem for the cannabis industry trying to get Federal legalization is that most people can now get access to weed either legally or illegally very easily. For people who are ambivalent or have children, they may say that the system is fine as it is. Most people can get cannabis legally if they want in America now, yes, there a few hoops and hurdles, but nothing drastic if you really want to get some marijuana, so why do we really need to make it legal Federally and in all 50 states? There are much bigger problems in the world than getting legal access to the last 15% of the US population that does not have it, and if it that big of a deal, let the last few states legalize a medical program, and we are fine.
While the marijuana industry sees this issue as literally life or death due to bank restictions and funding options, the non-cannabis interested parties in life see it as a problem that is already working itself out. President Trump echoed similar thoughts by saying the “states are working it out and that seems fine” when asked about Federal legalization.
The main problem now for Federal marijuana legalization is that everyone can already get it.