The change in political leadership at the White House and the shift in Capitol Hill are leading some cannabis professionals and pundits to feel both excited and optimistic about the future of marijuana in the United States.
As President Joe Biden assumes office, there are high hopes that cannabis reform laws would take center stage.
Many proponents of this position argue that the liberal stance of the new occupants of the White House and the now Democrat-controlled Congress could perhaps herald an era of promise and progression for the sector.
But how true are these assertions?
If we were to look back on the history of the duo of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, there isn’t really much to hope for.
Joe Biden as a Senator representing Delaware had been far from liberal with votes for cannabis.
In fact, he was a key figure behind the federal government War on Drugs in the early 90s and he specifically between 1986 and 1990 introduced a series of legislative bills that sought tougher sentences for drug-related offenses including those that involved marijuana.
Some online commentators have pointed out that Biden’s signature piece of legislation, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, has played a key role in skyrocketing incarceration rates for drug offenses in the U.S., and is responsible for the disproportionate imprisonment rates seen in lower-income and at-risk communities.
Kamala Harris on the other hand as District Attorney secured more convictions for marijuana-related offenses than any other DA the San Francisco County had ever had.
So what has changed?
Well, nothing really. Although many would argue that the views of the President and Vice President have evolved considerably over the past decades, it is very unlikely that we should expect a swift 180-degree turn in the status quo.
For starters, the Biden presidency has made it clear that legalization is off the table. While it would push for legislation that would decriminalize use and possession, and possibly expunge criminal records relating to marijuana offenses, outright legalization would not occur under their watch.
As he first said in an ABC News interview in 2010, where he was quoted as saying, “There’s a difference between sending someone to jail for a few ounces [of marijuana] and legalizing it.
The punishment should fit the crime. But I think legalization is a mistake. I still believe [marijuana] is a gateway drug,” the same still rings true today.
So what’s on the table for cannabis companies?
In spite of the seemingly gloomy picture, there are silver linings in the horizon. For one, a change of control in the legislature is already yielding good fruits for the sector.
In recent times, the Senate through the house majority leader has relayed its readiness to pass the MORE act as well as enact other laws to drive the push for legal recognition of the industry.
The SAFE Banking Act, which allows banks and other financial institutions to work with cannabis companies without fear of prosecution, and the STATES Act which allows individual states to determine their own legalization framework and support local businesses without interference from the federal government are some of the key legislative frameworks that are also in the pipeline.
But while we await the outcomes of these processes, we can only hope for the best.