Legalizing cannabis is a hot topic right now, heading into elections season in the US. 

I look at some of the campaign promises, the rhetoric, the words that come out of various candidates mouths when they talk about legalizing cannabis as part of their plank; I am not incredibly impressed by these words.  I am not sure which candidates actually care about cannabis legalization, and who is just paying the idea lip service in the hopes of getting enough votes to win an election. 

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Legalizing cannabis, or talking about it, is quite possibly the most overused plank in the entire process at the moment.  It’s a bandwagon, like wearing your first Lakers jersey in ’99, or finally buying yourself a Patriots hat in 2017.  So many people have done it, but that doesn’t make it right, nor does it mean much.   

It’s a pretty safe bet for Democrats or Republicans looking to get elected this cycle to speak positively about legalizing cannabis. 

Florida.  Maryland.  Illinois.  Kansas.  Iowa.  Idaho.  New Mexico.  Oklahoma.  Michigan.  Wisconsin.  

Each of these states – and more – all have gubernatorial candidates who are in favor of legalizing cannabis; some of the candidates are Democrats, some are Republican.  Adults in America don’t care if marijuana is legal for the most part – especially medical marijuana.  

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Every member of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate is on the ballot.  That’s a lot of people trying to get a limited number of votes.  This could be the most important mid-term elections in our lifetime, if not ever.  Seriously. 

I’m not here to debate the merits of medical marijuana versus adult use marijuana, although I do think it’s a slippery slope to try and pin legality on cannabis as a medical thing, since that could very well play right into a Schedule 2 assignment if we did see rescheduling for cannabis, and that would wipe out the industry as we know it today.  I’ll dwell on that in another post. 

If pot is so popular with the people who haven’t been elected yet, why is it still an illegal Schedule 1 drug?

Let’s talk about the House of Representatives first.  As you probably are aware, many of the bills that are held up in the House – Rorhabacher/Blumenauer for instance – were never brought to a vote, they were held up in committee.  More specifically, they were held up in the Rules committee, which is currently chaired by Pete Sessions, a Republican from Texas, who is no relation, at least genetically, to Jeff Sessions, the AG.

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Pete Sessions isn’t retiring.  He’s not moving on to greener pastures and attempting to win a governorship or a Senate seat, nor is he heading for the holy grail of private consulting and lobbying for the giant bags of money that former Congress members are paid to do that sort of thing.  Pete has been the committee chair since 2012, when John Boehner (remember him, he’s pro legalizing cannabis now, go figure) appointed him to the post.  He’s not likely to leave it, unless the Republicans manage to squander their majority in the House. 

A bunch of clowns at the goat rodeo?

Moving on to the Senate, Richard Shelby is the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee; he’s a Republican from Alabama (yep, he certainly knows Jeff Sessions well), and he doesn’t come up for reelection again until 2022.  And this guy isn’t going anywhere unless the Republicans lose their majority in the Senate in November. 

Richard Shelby is the guy that nixed a bill to allow state legal cannabis industry businesses to have access to legal banking, and he did this in June, just a few weeks ago.  Of course his friend Mitch McConnell, the Senator from Kentucky who protects industrial hemp like it was his own firstborn, likely wouldn’t have allowed a vote of the full Senate on a stand alone bill, but wasn’t it nice that he didn’t have to do that?  Especially since Mitch is going to have to get back on the campaign trail if he wants another term – his number is up in 2020, and he probably doesn’t want to have a no vote against legalizing cannabis on his record. 

What can we actually do to move legalizing cannabis forward and see progress?

The first thing is for you to get out and vote.  I know that sounds silly, overly simple, whatever.  But it’s a mid term year, and people are generally apathetic when it actually comes to getting out there and voting.  

The second thing is for you to get your employees, vendors, suppliers, service people, etc to get out and vote.  Again, maybe it sounds silly, but if we do not keep the importance of voting at the forefront of everyone’s minds, there will be people who procrastinate right out of doing it.  And that’s bad, especially if people are a pro-cannabis as they claim to be. 

We need to make sure we elect representatives who REALLY are pro cannabis, who really are onboard with legalizing cannabis, and who will make sure this is one of their top priorities when they take office.  If not, we’ll be sitting here again in two years, speaking Russian (just kidding!  I think…) and complaining that we haven’t moved the dial any further than we did.  

Let’s face it, the status quo blows. 

We need to wrestle control of either the House or the Senate (I’m not optimistic enough to think the Republicans will lose them both) so that we can force the issue and force the votes on cannabis related bills – bills that provide for fair taxation (280E, ugh!), access to banking (it will not be cheap but that’s better than the alternative), and offer forward progress for how those in cannabis industry are treated at the federal level.  

If we do not elect candidates who will actually get the job done, we have no one to blame but ourselves and those pesky Russians (again, just kidding, I think…).  We will watch the Canadian market take off in a major way – unless the US banks pull a fast one on their Canadian counterparts like they did to Uruguay a few months ago – and we will see opportunities disappear most likely. 

There is never going to be a better time to elect as many pro-cannabis candidates as we will have in November, and we need to make sure these candidates are actually on our side, and not just “talking out of both sides of their mouths”, as my long dead grandmother used to say. 

Take the time to find out about the people you might be voting for – when did they become in favor of legalizing cannabis?  Are they a bandwagon rider or is there some actual substance, and therefore motivation, for them to work hard for you, your family, your employees and your business?  If you’re not reading Tom Angell regularly, make a new habit of doing just that.  The man has great info on a daily basis!

Whatever else you do, please do not squander your vote by failing to show up at the polls, and please become as informed about the candidates as possible.