Americans support legalizing marijuana in record numbers. A Hill-HarrisX survey released in April found that a whopping 84% of respondents support the legalization of pot. Half were in favor only for legalizing medical cannabis, with the other half supportive of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana as well.
With this widespread support, you might assume that U.S. marijuana legalization is a shoo-in. Think again.
By my rough calculations, the odds of marijuana being legalized in the U.S. within the next few years is less than 1 in 300. That’s right: The chances that you would flip a coin and have it land on heads eight times in a row are much better than the country legalizing pot anytime soon.
There’s one primary obstacle to changing federal laws to allow legal marijuana. And that obstacle’s name is Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives should have all the votes they need to pass legislation to, at minimum, federally recognize the rights of individual states to enforce their own cannabis laws. Sen. Cory Gardner (R.-Colo.) even thinks the votes exist in the U.S. Senate to pass similar legislation.
But any bill that comes before the Senate must first be allowed to do so by the Senate majority leader. Sen. McConnell currently holds that position. He has very little incentive to change federal marijuana laws. In fact, it could be a foolish political move for him to allow marijuana legalization legislation to be voted on by the full Senate.
The issue is that hemp farming is now a rapidly growing industry in Sen. McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. He played a key role in getting the 2018 Farm Bill passed last year. The bill legalized hemp in the U.S. and created greater opportunities for Kentucky hemp farmers. Those opportunities could be jeopardized by the U.S. legalization of marijuana. Because of this, Sen. McConnell has shown zero interest in changing federal marijuana laws.
That leads to the obvious question: Will the Democrats regain the U.S. Senate in 2020, thereby booting Sen. McConnell from his position as majority leader? They could, but the odds of doing so appear to be daunting at this point.
Democrats need to flip seven seats to take control of the Senate. With the GOP defending 22 seats compared to only 12 for the Democrats, that might seem…