Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, June 18, 2018

Incomplete but sober accounting of "7 Reasons Marijuana Won't Be Legalized in the U.S."

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.

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8. Admitting that marijuana is not a real threat to society would make it awkward to recall the hundreds of thousands of lives ruined or marred by arrests and imprisonment in pursuit of Reefer Madness.

Posted by: John Echols | Jun 18, 2018 7:05:02 AM

As long as the GOP has Congress nothing will change. That might change in JAN 2019. Dems must take, at least, the House. Public support is now at 64% regardless of what Kevin Sabet, Pete Sessions or Andy Harris say, or think.

Posted by: Gary | Jun 21, 2018 4:18:40 AM

This is complicated.

Parts of the cannabis community get very nervous about full federal legalization. Producers now have their states’ markets to themselves, because every state forbids imports. Federal legalization may well allow standard interstate competition, and take away the profits of some producers (think Alaska). If you're an Alaskan grower, you might want something less than full legalization -- starting with banking.

Posted by: Pat Oglesby | Jun 30, 2018 1:55:32 PM

I think we are still at least two elections (2018 and 2020) from even small form of federal reform, though I could be wrong.

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 30, 2018 7:32:00 PM

Democrats taking the House is a must for any reform to take place in 2019.

Posted by: Gary | Jul 3, 2018 1:28:11 PM

Funny thing. Keep outta the hands of underage people. Please what about alcohol.

Posted by: Josh | Jul 16, 2018 4:36:14 PM

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