Why Schumer’s bill flopped

By Alex Halperin
Jul 15, 2021

The cannabis industry rejoiced in January when Democrats took control of the Senate. Now it looks like any kind of federal reform could still be a long way off. What happened? 

Quite a few smart folks have said that every time a state legalizes that translates into two more legalization supporters in the U.S. Senate. Now it looks like that may not be true.

While former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner “evolved” in his support for legalization, that may have been more reflective of his own needs running in an increasingly liberal state where cannabis is a priority. 

  • Across the border in Oklahoma, where there’s a freewheeling, fast-growing MED industry, neither Republican Senator supports legalization. (However, they don’t oppose it as loudly as many conservative Republicans have done in the past.)
  • Legalization has majority support from voters in every, or almost every, state. But the response to Schumer’s bill shows that Senators aren’t as responsive to popular sentiment as governors are, at least on this issue. 
  • With the filibuster in place, a bill probably needs 60 votes to pass the Senate. In an evenly divided chamber, Schumers bill will be a big lift.

It’s also possible that while many Democrats and some Republicans support legalization, or at least decriminalization, on paper, they remain uncomfortable with the idea of marijuana regulated like alcohol.  

To test this theory, WeedWeek asked the four members of the House Cannabis Caucus a question:

“Aside from the economic benefits of legalization and the failures of the war on drugs, do you believe universal adult access to commercial marijuana, including high-potency concentrates, is a net benefit for society? Why or why not?” Though these four lawmakers are supposedly the chamber’s strongest legalization supporters, none said “Yes, cannabis access benefits society.”  

  • Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Don Young (R-Ak.) didn’t respond.
  • Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) dodged the question: “I firmly believe that each state should have the right to determine for itself whether or not to legalize cannabis, and if so, to which extent.”

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