The big news in the cannabis industry this week is the introduction of the Senate bill “Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act” (CAOA). It represents the most ambitious attempt to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level in the United States. And – despite how popular media is spinning it – it should be an easy bill to pass. But here’s where, once again, the will of United States voters and the people who are supposed to represent them are at odds.
Let’s get down to brass tacks:
What does the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act propose?
A detailed summary of the CAOA is listed at democrats.senate.gov. In brief, the bill proposes:
- To remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances list
- To recognize state laws controlling cannabis
- To establish federal guidelines on retail sales
- To provide for cannabis research
- To implement restorative justice and opportunity programs for victims of the War on Drugs
- To implement a federal tax on cannabis sales
- To hand over regulation of cannabis to the FDA
While these changes may seem sweeping, they are not at all outside the attitude which the majority of the United States has taken towards cannabis already. Let’s see some facts and figures:
The public support for legalized marijuana is insurmountable
The landscape of legalized marijuana changes so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Since the last time we looked at the map, numerous states have legalized further. General election 2020 was already a ground-breaking year for cannabis legalization, and we’ve piled on some more legalization measures since then.
Here’s the score at this point:
- Fully legal (adult recreational use): Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington
- Medical use only: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia
- CBD / hemp allowed: Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Texas, Wisconsin
- Decriminalized: Nebraska, North Carolina
- Still illegal and criminalized: Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wyoming
That leaves FIVE STATES which have not undertaken some form of ending cannabis prohibition. Forty-five states plus the District of Columbia have taken steps to remove the criminal element from marijuana: 18 fully legal, 19 for medical purposes, 6 for CBD oil therapeutic purposes, and 2 more have just decriminalized it.
Think about that ratio! For comparison, only 24 states allow sports betting, only 29 states have a minimum wage law, and only 34 states think the legal age of consent should be higher than 16. But 45 US states think marijuana is not as harmful as the federal government has been making it out to be.
The latest Gallup poll shows that 68% of Americans support FULL legalization, not just medical or CBD oil, but fully legalized cannabis. That number has grown steadily since Gallup started asking that question, tipping the 50% point around 2013.
When you come to the question of legalizing for medical use at least, the support gets even broader. Pew Research reported in 2019 that a whopping 91% of Americans support legalizing marijuana for at least medical use. That leaves 8% holdouts who want it to stay illegal for any purpose.
For comparison… well, who knows where we can turn to find 91% of Americans agreeing on anything? In general election 1984, Reagan only beat Mondale by a popular vote percentage split of 59-41. Only 60% of Americans believe in evolution, only 73% believe science has a positive impact on society, and only 75% of Americans understand that the Earth orbits the sun.
You go ahead and find me anything else that unites 91% of Americans, and drop us a comment, hey?
What is stopping cannabis legalization?
You might be tempted to say “Republicans,” but in fact cannabis legalization has broad bipartisan support from all parties. Polling for marijuana legalization shows 73% support from Democrats and 47% support from Republicans, which is a higher popularity rating than some presidents enjoy from their own party.
But there are some proverbial sticks in the mud, and they do have a scary amount of power out of proportion to their elected office – if they have one at all. A while back we covered grassroots (so to speak) petitions to legalize cannabis in states before the 2020 election. A lot of those states got the required signatures to force a cannabis legalization measure onto the ballot, only to have this happen:
- South Dakota – A judge got the voter-approved constitutional amendment thrown out on a technicality
- Nebraska – A “law firm representing unnamed state residents” filed a legal challenge to putting the measure on the ballot
- Oklahoma – A local figure by the name of Paul Tay raised a challenge to the measure which was upheld by the Supreme Court
- Mississippi – A city mayor Mary Hawkins Butler challenged the measure saying it was “improperly put before voters”
Not nearly enough attention is being called to this sabotage from within the system. Basically, it doesn’t matter how many citizens vote, sign petitions, and write their legislators when one obstructionist can throw all that effort away.
In one case, Paul Tay of Oklahoma is a citizen who has run for office on the Independent ticket. He is known for local media-grabbing stunts including riding a bike while dressing up like Santa Claus, advocating to build a moon base just for use by Tulsa, and multiple arrests for threatening a city councilor, soliciting prostitution, and “outraging public decency.” Note, we have no idea what that could possibly mean, but it must have been something really weird. Still, a judge listened when Paul Tay, who had previously billed himself as a marijuana advocate, wanted a citizen-approved marijuana legalization bill shot down.
This is the kind of thing we’re fighting against.
When it comes to cannabis, the federal government is still living in the era of Reefer Madness. It's past time to end these outdated, racist laws. @SenBooker @SenSchumer and I are all in to get it done.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) July 16, 2021
Chuck Schumer has brought the cannabis legalization debate back in front of the nation
While we’re not a major civic player here at DabConnection, we do urge those of you who support cannabis legalization this time to get the word out. It is unthinkable that 91% of America wants something legalized and we still can’t get it. We have a second chance to have this debate courtesy of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Democrats have crafted the bill and the issue of cannabis legalization is frequently associated with Democrats, certainly painted by popular media as a partisan issue. But cannabis legalization has worked out for red states and blue states. It has had support from the most liberal Socialist to the most conservative Libertarian. In this divided nation, it is one of the few, if not only issues that 91% of us agree on.
For a change, we’re not going to urge you to share your thoughts in our comments and forums. You’re preaching to the choir here! Share this post, share this issue, spread it far and wide. Let’s end this silly, trivial, discriminatory prohibition and move on with our lives.