Monday, June 18, 2018
For lots of reasons there is lots of enthusiasm these days about the prospects for federal marijuana reform. But this recent commentary, fully headlined "7 Reasons Marijuana Won't Be Legalized in the U.S.: Despite growing public support, cannabis is unlikely to get a green light from Congress anytime soon," throws some appropriate cold water on anyone getting too hot about the prospects of Congress passing a major marijuana reform bill anytime soon. Here are the stated seven reasons, and readers are recommended to click through to see accompanying explanation):
1. Lawmakers worry about adolescent access
2. Clinical data has been mixed
3. Driving under the influence laws aren't concrete
4. Congress doesn't have room on its docket for reform
5. Republicans have a mixed to negative view of marijuana
6. Keeping the current scheduling has an economic benefit
7. Rescheduling could be a nightmare
As I see it, this commentary's discussion of policy and political challenges to marijuana reform really only scratches the surface. Of particular importance for any major criminal justice reform is the serious commitment of key congressional leadership. My sense is that key congressional leaders, especially in the Senate which seems likely to stay in GOP hands through at least 2020, have little or no interest in broad marijuana reforms.
In addition, as we have seen recently in federal sentencing reform debates, even once there is broad interest in some kinds of reforms, there can often be significant fights over exactly what kind of reform will be adopted. In the marijuana space, figuring out which of a wide variety of reforms should be embraced even among supporters of reform presents significant political and practical challenges.