Cannabis Laws in USA

Could the Federal Legalization of Cannabis be on the Horizon?

October 12, 2020 0 Comment

Legal cannabis; it was once merely a hope, but is now a reality in many states. However, the continued federal illegality of cannabis continues to stunt the industry. Currently, cannabis products are legal for any adult in 11 states and 19 more states for those with a medical card in 33 states.

How to Legalize Cannabis

With the laws loosening in many states, the question becomes, when will federal marijuana prohibition end? There is more than one way that this may happen. The first way would be that congress would choose to legalize it.

This process would be:

  1. A cannabis legalization bill would have to be introduced to Congress through a U.S. representative or senator. 
  2. The bill would have to be approved by a committee in the Senate and House. They would both have to agree on the same version of the bill. 
  3. The president must sign the bill, or if the president refuses to sign, have enough backing to let the senate and house overrule. 

The second option would be to de-schedule or reschedule cannabis products as labeled in the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. 

  1. An outside party would have to file a petition to the U.S. Attorney General.  


  1. The President would have to make an executive order.

With this in mind, the fastest of these options would be to elect a president that favors marijuana legalization. Neither of the two major candidates left in the 2020 race, sitting Republican president Donald Trump nor Democratic party candidate Joe Biden have come out strongly in favor of total de-scheduling.

While Biden has voiced that he would want to decriminalize marijuana, legalizing it doesn’t seem to be something he wants to do at this time. Donald Trump appears to be either leaving it to the states to decide or tightening existing laws making the substance less legal than it already is. 

Either way, the election turns out, having a president completely de-schedule marijuana in the next four years seems unlikely. Even if a president were to sign an executive order, there would still be a lengthy bureaucratic process before this could fully take place.

What do People Want?

According to a poll by Harvard and POLITICO, it was found that a majority of Americans at 62% favor the legalization of recreational marijuana on a national level. This is a big contrast from the 2009 poll results of 44 percent. Other researchers, like Pew researchers, have seen similar favoring of marijuana legalization. 

Although the public may be slightly in favor, Congress is not currently in a position to approve. Whether the bill would be able to be pushed through by Congress in the next couple of years will depend on the 2020 election as seats go up for grabs.

Could Money Be the Solution? 

In a capitalistic economy, much of everything is driven by money, including politics and legislation. The cannabis industry is booming, and that’s just the legal market. If the entirety of the U.S. could legalize recreational marijuana, the industry would only grow more.

One of the biggest problems with the growth of the marijuana industry is regulation on marijuana crossing borders and business not being able to work with federal banks.

The State Banking Associations from all 50 states, along with Puerto Rico, have told the U.S. Senate that they would like cannabis businesses to be able to access banks legally fully. With the current predicament, the cannabis industry is stuck being a business that heavily relies on cash. 

With COVID-19 hurting the economy and the cannabis industry being declared essential in many states, it has been speculated that the government could look towards the cannabis industry as a potential economic booster.

Right Now

Currently, it seems up to the states to decide whether or not they want to legalize marijuana. However, at any time, the federal government could choose to enforce the federal cannabis prohibition laws as federal laws, overruling state laws.

How Would Federal Legalization Change Anything?

Federal legalization would open the doors for many new business ventures and whole new markets. Conservative estimates of the potential business market for legal cannabis in the U.S. are over 50 billion.

With such a fruitful market, legalization will cause a large new crop of dispensaries, cultivators, and more to join the business. Barriers to entry will become low as once precious licenses become more available, and banking becomes much more accessible. 

There would also most likely be a consolidation of the three separate parts of the industry: agriculture, processing, and retail. 

Current laws and regulations have forced the cannabis industry into a vertical business model where all three of the different parts are their own separate companies. With total legalization and potential loosening of rules, this could lead to more of the same products being sold nationally and more cohesion between the currently vertical business procedures. 

Another potential outcome of total cannabis legalization for adults is intense competition and the inevitable corporatization of the marijuana industry. Smaller and more local businesses may get pushed out as big national brands become established. 

Even if the cannabis industry is fully legalized, the growth and changes in the industry will depend on state boundary laws, and hiring practice restrictions are relaxed. Another issue is if states try to root out those selling without licenses or leave them be. 

Overall, cannabis legalization could be soon or years away. It will ultimately come down to how the 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections go and how those elected officials choose to treat the topic of cannabis. Even if cannabis was to be legalized, how much it is authorized, and whether other restrictions are also lifted will significantly affect how the industry’s growth will progress in the upcoming years.

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