Dem-Controlled Senate Could Usher In Cannabis Reform, Say Experts
Iris Dorbian – Contributor
With the Democrats gaining majority control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 2010, some pundits in the legal cannabis community are eagerly weighing in on how this shift in leadership will impact the industry from a regulatory standpoint.
Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on marijuana legalization, feels Senator Chuck Schumer’s ascension to Majority Leader, is a boon for the industry because of the New York-based lawmaker’s vocal stance for the need of cannabis legislation. And, as both Georgia Senators-elect Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock are on the record about ending federal marijuana prohibition, the political climate does seem far more amenable to reform than it was previously.
Under the outgoing GOP Senate leadership, notable cannabis reform bills such as the MORE Act, which decriminalizes marijuana and the SAFE Banking Act, a measure that allows banks and other financial institutions to work with cannabis companies without incurring legal penalties, languished in the Senate after being approved in the House of Representatives. However, the impasse might ease as many Senators, which include Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rob Wyden (D-OR), “have already pledged publicly to debate and advance legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition via descheduling,” noted Strekal.
Charles Gormally, co-chair of the cannabis law practice at Brach Eicher in Roseland, New Jersey, echoed Strekal’s sentiment. “The change of control in the United States Senate has created the possibility that the long-overdue rescheduling of cannabis may have a puncher’s chance of passing,” he said. “While cannabis liberalization polls as a bipartisan issue, Republican control of the Senate has been where reasonable proposals go to die.”
Gormally expressed hope that this shift in leadership would usher in a serious debate of cannabis reform bills as well as decriminalization and expungement of cannabis convictions. “Rescheduling of cannabis could also open up interstate marketplaces and inject the kind of efficiency of a marketplace that is sorely lacking now,” he continued.
Seasoned industry professionals, such as Michael King, co-founder and CEO of Kings Garden, a cannabis cultivation, processing and manufacturing company based in California’s Coachella Valley, are also feeling very upbeat with the imminent Democrat-controlled Senate. Like Gormally, King feels decriminalization may now be more likely. Yet King can’t help but sound a cautionary tone, adding that “any major legislation would need 60 votes in the upper chamber to avoid a filibuster.”
Still, he and other industry leaders are planning on being in the forefront when it comes to making their voices heard. “We will continue to advocate for licensed cannabis businesses to have access to banks and the U.S. stock market — opportunities that are dependent on federal lawmakers taking action to make cannabis legal on a national level,” said King.