Expect These US Politicians To Be Leading the Charge to make Cannabis Legal in 2020
The push to make cannabis legal in 2020 has seen exponential growth in support in a record amount of time. While Obama was reluctant to fully support legal cannabis and introduced only minor laws in support of the substance, lawmakers on both sides of the political divide are now arguing in favour of making cannabis legal.
In this age of intensely partisan politics, it seems that legal cannabis is one of the few things that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. This may be due to the overwhelming popularity of decriminalizing cannabis among almost all polled demographics. Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennials all show massive support for legalization in recent polls, with the only hold-outs being Boomers. While Democrats have traditionally been the first to see the benefits of medical cannabis, business-minded Republicans are also beginning to view the potential in legal cannabis.
We’ve compiled a short list of both Democratic and Republican politicians who are expected to be leaders in the push to make cannabis legal in 2020.
Matt Gaetz – R-FL
Young attorney and Congressman Matt Gaetz represents the Florida 1st Congressional District and sits on the Budget, Armed Services, and Judiciary Committees. He is the son of former Florida State Senator Don Gaetz. In 2018, he gave the keynote address at the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association Conference in Orlando.
Matt Gaetz has been outspoken in his support for reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug, which would allow for greater research and expand the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. He argues that this focus on the medicinal properties of marijuana will serve a double-benefit of reducing the American opioid crisis by giving patients with chronic pain more options than prescribed opioid pain relievers. A 2015 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research agrees with him: states with medical marijuana laws have reported lower rates of addiction and deaths related to prescription opioids. “Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers.”
Cory Booker – D-NJ
Cory Booker is a junior Senator from New Jersey, and was previously Mayor of Newark from 2006-2013. As of February 1, 2019, he is running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
Booker’s voting record in the Senate ranks him the third most-liberal Senator, behind only Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. He is a strong advocate for women’s rights and same-sex marriage, among other traditionally liberal policies.
His stance on marijuana isn’t limited to legalization. In this tweet from March 25, 2019, he says that it is not enough to simply legalize marijuana but to reinvest in communities hurt by the war on drugs and penalize states that don’t legalize the substance. He sees legalizing marijuana as a way to end the disproportionate number of African-Americans arrested under strict drug laws. At the beginning of March 2019, Booker, along with other Democratic Presidential candidates, introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, which would “remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and withhold certain federal funding from states that disproportionately enforce marijuana criminalization laws against people of color and low-income individuals.”
Jeff Merkley – D-OR
Jeff Merkley is the junior Senator from Oregon. Before that, he sat in the Oregon House of Representatives five times and served as its Speaker from 2007 until he left for the US Senate in 2009. He is a progressive politician, endorsing Bernie Sanders’ Presidential run in 2016, the only US Senator to do so, and was considered to be a potential candidate himself for the 2020 election, but has decided to run for re-election in the Senate instead. It can be expected he will continue to fight to make cannabis legal in 2020.
Merkley is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has decision over all discretionary spending. Merkley has used his position on the Committee to push two major legal reforms with regards to marijuana: the Merkley Amendment, which would prevent banks from being penalized for doing business with medical marijuana businesses, and the Daines/Merkley Amendment, which would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.
In a press release on the Merkley Amendment, he said this: ““Forcing businessmen and businesswomen who are operating legally under Oregon state law to shuttle around gym bags full of cash is an invitation to crime and malfeasance. That must end,”
Rand Paul – R-KY
Although Senator Rand Paul represents Kentucky, which hasn’t legalized marijuana, he is following in his father Ron’s footsteps in being an advocate for medical marijuana legalization- a position Ron Paul had long before it was so popular.
Paul has said that the war on drugs has a racial bias and that “the people going to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.” Last year, Paul added two amendments to the deal to reopen Congress during the (first of the) 2018 US Government shutdowns. One was designed to prevent the Federal government from interfering in state legalization efforts, the other was similar to Jeff Merkley’s amendment to protect banks dealing with licensed medical marijuana businesses from federal regulators.
Legal Cannabis in 2020 is Almost Assured
This list barely scratches the surface of active US politicians who are pushing for legal cannabis in 2020. Former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is involved in a cannabis start-up, Acreage Holdings, which is valued at around US$2.8 billion. Boehner was against marijuana reform for pretty much his entire political career, so his reversal is possibly the surest sign that the tide is turning.
On the other side of the aisle, House Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced in January of 2019 that Canopy Growth would be building a massive hemp cultivation and processing centre in New York State.
The momentum to make cannabis legal in 2020 is gaining steam as a bi-partisan issue and is set to be a major political point in the next election. Will both sides come together to finally end the prohibition on medical cannabis? Time will tell, but we believe the writing is on the wall.