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Does America Need Democrats to End Prohibition?

Emily Robertson
United States Map covered in cannabis leaf symbols

No one should be playing politics over the end of prohibition and granting access to safe medicine, yet that’s exactly what’s happening in America.

With its northern neighbour about to legalize in October, what is the United States thinking in regards to its own prohibition of cannabis?  President Obama’s administration, while subtly pro-cannabis, did not move to end the scheduling nor the federal ban of cannabis. Number 45, President Trump, has offered platitudes regarding full legalization, but has surrounded himself with a largely anti-cannabis administration. So, what next?

President Trump fake smiling at the podium

Image Credit: Evan El-Amin

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump spoke often about supporting medical cannabis on a federal level, while letting states choose their own laws on recreational cannabis. As with many of his statements and promises, though, Trump swiftly made a 180 turn and nominated anti-cannabis Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.  A former senator for Alabama, Sessions is a staunch and vocal anti-drug politician (and he believes cannabis to be a drug with no medicinal value) whose appointment made many cannabis advocates concerned that the administration would take three steps backwards with drug laws.

Jeff Sessions

Image Credit: Mark Reinstein

Sessions’ dreaded crack down did come down the pipeline – but rather than harming legal grows and businesses, it actually has helped. Music to the ears of those who have invested in the industry, but perhaps not so much to Senator Sessions, who once claimed, ‘Good people don’t smoke marijuana.’ By shutting down illegal grows, Sessions has helped the legal entities to flourish.

The fact is, those in the cannabis industry remain in on uncertain footing. The public statements of Mr. Sessions show a man who is deeply ignorant of cannabis and its benefits, and seems to believe that the plant contributed to the opioid crisis.

United States Map covered in cannabis leaf symbols

Image Credit: Aleynikov Pavel

Sessions has made some big moves to try to limit the cannabis industry. This past January, he put forth a memo that some say is one of the reasons big banks have pulled away from the cannabis industry (many in the industry – even legal growers and dispensaries – are forced to deal in cash). In a press release announcing the move, Sessions explained it would help local and state law enforcement to ‘disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.’ However, what most people saw was a return to a ‘war on drugs’ that included an attack against cannabis. The memo would potentially rescind the right of states to legalize cannabis in deference to a federal prohibition.

Protester holding sign saying: save my life. deschedule cannabis

Image Credit: Rina Schild

After his ‘let’s make a deal’ politics on the campaign trail, that seemed more pro-cannabis than not, what does Donald Trump have to say about Attorney General Session’s moves to hinder the cannabis industry? Well, he no longer seems to support cannabis. A businessman who ran on populist politics, it’s no wonder that Trump backed down in a statement to Senator Cory Gardner. So many of his policies have been unpopular, that those ‘lesser issues’ aren’t worth losing more votes for the next election. To Trump, it’s a space for negotiation – he accepts legal cannabis so he can advance other areas of his agenda. At this point, however, what the cannabis industry needs is a promise in writing, or better yet, in law.

War on Drugs concept with type over crumpled paper

Image Credit: ImagePixel

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer agrees. That’s why he’s moved forward with a plan to federally legalize, or even decriminalize, cannabis. Schumer has promised to introduce legislation that would see decriminalization across the country. He explained that his proposed legislation comes from personal experiences, in which he’s seen too many lives ruined because people are being arrested for even small amounts of cannabis and serving jail time.

Will Cannabis be Legalized in the States?

Political projections are funny things: sometimes they’re bang on and sometimes it looks more like they’ve spun a wheel and pulled their estimates off a random selection of pseudo-related content. But journalist Paul Waldman, who writes for American Prospect has hope for the cannabis industry in America. He believes that more likely than not, the Democratic party will take back Congress and the White House, and pave the way for broader legalization. Or at least put the federal prohibition of cannabis to bed. Does America need the Democratic influence to end this thing? It’s sort of looking that way…

Democrat Donkey Versus Republican Elephant face off cartoon

Image Credit: Nerthuz

Let’s keep a couple things in mind:

1) Donald Trump has the power to reschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 classification;

2) rescheduling could encourage Congress to take cannabis off the Controlled Substances Act entirely.

Will he do this? Only time will tell.

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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