Marijuana is legal nationwide in Canada, and it could soon be in Mexico, as well. But the United States government has all but refused to even consider marijuana legalization as part of the American way.
Although a slew of states has ended pot prohibition at the state level — allowing weed to be sold like booze — the feds do not have any interest in taking this concept to the big stage. But if the U.S. is about to be sandwiched between two countries with legal weed, could lawmakers have a change of heart? The answer is one part politics and two parts everything else.
Last week, Mexico’s Senate put its seal of approval on a bill aimed at creating a fully legal cannabis market. The initiative aims to remove the power from the drug cartels and put the plant to work for the national economy in a way that doesn’t bring about waves of brutality and murder. It’s not exactly a done deal, according to a recent report from Reuters. The legislation must first pass the lower House, and some technicalities need to be hashed out before it is a lock. If it happens, though, Mexico will join Canada in operating a taxed and regulated marijuana market.
It was just a few years ago that the northern nation made the same leap. It was one of the first lines of business brought on by then newly appointed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He, too, was sick of the criminal organizations reaping all of the benefits while the country’s youth suffered the consequences. Still, there were and continue to be growing pains with legal weed. Cannabis consumers are still getting a better price on the black market, preventing around 40 percent from moving over to the legal system. But all in all, the business is in reasonably decent shape.
So, what are the chances that the U.S. government will recognize the legalization efforts to the north and south and make a move to do something similar? For now, the chances are slim.
In November, more states moved to legalize the leaf for medicinal and recreational purposes. More than half of the nation now recognizes cannabis as a legitimate product. Meanwhile, some of the latest polls show that nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population now supports full-blown legalization. But this sentiment is not resonating in the nation’s capital.
The Republican-dominated Senate is still morally opposed to marijuana. A lot of the older Republicans, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, aren’t about to legalize a substance that they worry might wreak havoc on society. It’s just not consistent with their Bible-belt upbringing.
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And while the Democratic-controlled House is set to vote on a legalization bill (MORE Act) this week, there are still plenty of reservations in the lower chamber. In fact, the upcoming vote was initially scheduled for September, but Democrats thought it best to reschedule it for a later date because they were worried about losing votes. It’s like they aren’t even paying attention to the polls. In short, marijuana isn’t the hot topic on Capitol Hill that cannabis advocates would like the masses to think it is. Congress just isn’t aligned in a way that is going to allow marijuana to go legal anytime soon.
But it is getting there. Just slowly.
U.S. lawmakers keep saying that marijuana legalization will pass, but they just can’t make any predictions on the timeline. “[Cannabis legalization] is going to happen, I’m confident,” Democratic Senator Cory Booker told Politico. “But how it happens and when it happens is the question.”
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Pro-marijuana lawmakers have been slinging the same “coming soon” spiel for the past decade or more. Sadly, Congress just isn’t going to be equipped to make significant strides on this issue next year. Even president-elect Joe Biden isn’t interested in leading the country into fully legal territory. The most he’s willing to do is decriminalize it and make it more accessible for medicinal purposes.
So, it’s unlikely that Canada and Mexico are going to inspire U.S. lawmakers to join the fun. At best, the United States could see some reforms falling into place that lessens the criminal penalties for pot possession and perhaps even some that allow convicted marijuana offenders some reprieve. But as for marijuana legalization in America, it’s a non-starter.