Advocates Are Working To Pass Federal Cannabis Reform In 2021
Currently, top political figures are working to design a bill to legalize cannabis on a federal level. However, there are some concerns amongst Senate leaders and advocates. Though having the Democratic party in control of the chamber some of their votes may not be used towards federal cannabis reform. What the Democrats need to understand are the possible obstacles of collecting 60 votes to prevent a delay for a standalone bill on the floor. Many advocates are asking those in charge to enact policy change through a system known as budget reconciliation.
This would need a majority vote of 51 for things to pass smoothly. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is leading the legalization efforts, didn’t rule that out from happening. This was a topic that was brought up at a press conference last week. He was also faced with the question of whether senators might try to incorporate the cannabis proposal into reconciliation. To which he replied “you will hear in a few weeks the legislation that’ll answer” that question.
“This is an option the Marijuana Justice Coalition shared” with the majority leader, Maritza Perez, director of the office of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told an online marijuana publication. “The way we see it, a must-pass bill is the only vehicle that can ensure we pass a marijuana justice bill in this Senate.”
Chris Lindsey, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an interview that it’s clear “Leader Schumer is taking seriously his commitment to see legalization happen at the federal level, and address the ongoing harm from prohibition.”
“We have no doubt he is looking at all vehicles that can accomplish reform,” he said.
Will The Senate Eventually Pass Federal Cannabis Reform
Yet heading down the path of reconciliation may be an easy workaround. Yet if it works it would reduce the stress to find Republican supporters. The legislative process is complicated, with a range of laws that limit what kind of measures can be enacted under the procedure in the first place. The so-called Byrd rule defines whether a certain proposition is an “extraneous matter” that’s not relevant to the budget process. There are certain criteria that are used to make that decision. This also includes whether the bill would add to the deficit beyond a 10-year “budget window.”
Its possible politicians against cannabis legalization may prevent the marijuana language from being included. They would have to establish a point of order. The Senate Parliamentarian would then decide, in consultation with the presiding officer of the chamber. If they believe the language violates the Byrd rule, it would be stricken from the reconciliation bill. Considering that the impending legalization bill overcomes challenges under those reconciliation limitations, it may face a separate obstacle. Under the process, any member can introduce a change to the bill. Which must all be considered on the floor in a lengthy process known as “vote-a-rama.”
That means if a senator was not for cannabis legalization, they could force a vote on an amendment calling for the bill’s language to be removed. This would then need a majority vote to win. That might sound easier said than done. However given that Democrats now control both chambers, there’s yet another dilemma. Some Democrats in the chamber have indicated that they’re not for federal cannabis reform.
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What’s Next For Federal Cannabis Reform
In a recent interview with Politico Sen, Jeanne Shaheen spoke on why she doesn’t support cannabis reform. She went on to say “we’re in the middle of an opioid epidemic, and the research that I’ve seen suggests that that is a way that more people get into drugs.” As well Sen. Jon Tester mentioned he thinks legalization would “cause more problems than it solves.” Sens. Joe Manchin, Bob Casey, and Mark Kelly all told the outlet that they have no answers on the subject.
Back in March Democratic senators such as Sens. Ben Cardin and Debbie Stabenow spoke with Business Insider. They all concluded that they have not looked deeply at the issue of federal legalization to say how they would vote.
A long-time opponent of legalization Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who over time has started to back some reform legislation. This represents another matter to consider for Democratic leaders. Losing any single one of those legislators would endanger the bill even if only 50 votes were needed. This would mean Vice President Kamala Harris’s vote would be the tie-breaker. For any Democrat legalization loses, Schumer would have to pick up a Republican to get back to 50.
With support from Sen. Rand Paul who stated he is “one of the possible gets” this session. Furthermore, he inquired why his Democratic associates haven’t spoken to him on the matter.—As well his libertarian
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Final Thought On Federal Cannabis Legislation
leanings could have him hesitate about backing any bill to tax marijuana and use the proceeds to repair the harms of the war on drugs. Overall, if legislators take action to incorporate legalization into a budget package via reconciliation, things could get messy. Nevertheless, it may be their only viable way to succeed. Considering the alternative standalone route and the 60-vote threshold to end a filibuster.