Cannabis Fervor Crosses Party Lines—Until It Doesn’t

Did you know? Cannabis makes you happier! Legal medical cannabis and regulated adult recreational marijuana can cause people to become optimistic, even American politicians and the news media that comment on them. There’s a biological process involving the endocannabinoid system that explains how marijuana’s active molecules replace pessimism with positive expectation in the individual consumer of cannabis products.

But interactions between cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors do not explain recent rosy forecasts from some of the country’s most prominent news sources predicting that the divided American nation is on the verge of uniting and becoming one on the issue of cannabis legalization.

2020’s Presidential Election Votes in Optimism for Bipartisan Cannabis Support

“Marijuana Legalization Is so Popular It’s Defying the Partisan Divide,” proclaimed a November 2020 CBS News headline over an AP story that noted electorates in conservative South Dakota, progressive New Jersey, moderate Arizona and conservative Montana all had voted for regulated legal marijuana in that month’s national election. South Dakotan Bill Stocker, a 61-year-old former Marine and police officer and a Trump supporter, told CBS that negative attacks on marijuana were “a bunch of baloney” and “personal responsibility and freedom” had been victors in South Dakota.

CBS News made it seem possible, probable even, that a bipartisan push to repeal cannabis prohibition would soon make marijuana politics a thing of the past.

Bloomberg Opinion columnist Tara Lachapelle was of a similar mind in November 2020. Evolving acceptance of legal cannabis among the Republican Party and advocacy for regulated marijuana among the Democratic party would combine forces to eliminate marijuana prohibition and cannabis politics once and for all. In an editorial titled “Marijuana Could Actually Help Heal a Ruptured United States,” Lachapelle envisioned the United States coming together as a nation indivisible, united in promoting the business of legal cannabis.

Bit by bit, things are moving in a positive direction for the industry, albeit slowly. At the national level, if Biden is looking for common ground with Republicans, marijuana of all things seems like a reasonable place to start. The year 2020 truly is bizarre. [Live Mint]

Also from that truly bizarre year of 2020, as seen from the vantage of November directly following the weed winning national election, Kim Rivers, the CEO of Florida’s largest medical marijuana company, Trulieve, told Forbes,

“Cannabis is no longer a partisan issue—it’s a human issue.”

In November 2020, Rivers expressed optimism that the pro-marijuana election results would favor passage of the SAFE Banking Act, grant cannabis businesses traditional banking services and access to capital at reasonable terms, integrate the state-by-state checkerboard of cannabis business tax regulations, and elevate conversation regarding cannabis policy and reform to place the U.S. as world leaders in medical marijuana research.

Rivers assessed cannabis prohibition looking forward by consulting the past:

“Alcohol [prohibition] was repealed over time. I think we’re in a similar situation.”

How Much Bipartisan Time Will It Take to Eradicate Cannabis Prohibition?

In November 2020, the Virginia Mercury quoted Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat and a doctor, pledging his dedication to making Virginia the first state in the South to enact legal adult recreational use of Cannabis.

“We are going to move forward with legalizing marijuana in Virginia,” Northam said. “I support that and am committed to doing it the right way.”

Northam estimated 18 to 24 months would pass before a regulated cannabis marketplace was established in Virginia.

On July 1, 2021, anyone over 21 years old in Virginia will be permitted to possess up to an ounce of marijuana flower or an equivalent amount of cannabis product. Governor Northam’s pledge to legalize cannabis took just over half a year to come true.

Northam’s success with rolling aside cannabis prohibition is a great example for marijuana advocates of all political persuasions. It is not the only example.

In February 2021, a mere three months after South Dakota voters elected to establish a regulated marijuana marketplace, Circuit Court Judge Christina Klinger, who was appointed by Republican Governor Kristi Noem, struck down the voters’ preference for legal cannabis. According to The Hill, Klinger ruled that the marijuana ballot measure failed to conform to rules governing making amendments to the state constitution.

The Florida Supreme court, in April 2021, underscored Kim Rivers’s contention that repealing cannabis prohibition will take time by finding the state’s constitutional amendment to legalize adult use marijuana as “misleading.” The Associated Press reported that the Florida justices objected that ballot summaries of the initiative neglected to mention that marijuana possession, use and sale remain illegal at the federal level.

Florida’s State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat and marijuana advocate, suggested the court was ill-advised in its pursuit of democracy in reverse.

“My advice is that they [the justices] listen to the will of the people,” said Fried in a statement, “or they’ll be out of a job soon.”

Fried’s “soon” is a nebulous unit of time, a lot like Kim Rivers’s “over time” in which a united American populace will soon vote in legal cannabis sales and consumption for all.

Who Will Rescue the USA’s Bipartisan Cannabis Voters From Their Elected Officials?

As recently as May 14, 2021, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned Initiative 65 from the previous November’s ballot. Initiative 65 provided for up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis for patients with a qualifying condition and had gained the approval of 60 percent of Mississippi’s voters. Mississippi justices cited a ballot wording issue in reversing an electoral demand from, as Yahoo News estimated, more than 766,000 people. The court had been responding to a lawsuit challenging Ballot Initiative 65 filed by the Republican mayor of Madison, Mississippi.

As the Mississippi Supreme Court was handing down its decision, the justices may have been unaware that on the very same day, May 14, 2021, a pair of Republican Congressmen, David Joyce (R-OH) Ohio and Don Young (R-AK), were introducing the “Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act” into the United States Congress.

As reported by JD Supra, an online source of legal intelligence and commentary, the “Common Sense Cannabis Reform Act” is designed to “remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, provide detailed banking protections for the cannabis industry, allow military veterans access to state-legal cannabis programs, and expand the ability for cannabis research.”

Representatives Joyce and Young are co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus. Former Representative Dana Rohrabacher, (R-CA,) Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), former Colorado Representative and current Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Republican Representative Young formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus in 2017.

Not enough time has passed for the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to see its efforts to legalize marijuana come to full fruition. Progress has been made.

Subsequent to the “Common Sense Cannabis Reform Act” being introduced at the federal level, formerly recalcitrant state lawmakers in Mississippi and South Dakota are rethinking their marijuana phobias.

A June 23, 2021, AP story in the Argus Leader reported that South Dakota’s “state lawmakers and city governments are moving forward with their own pot plans” leading up to the possibility of the State Supreme Court squashing Circuit Court Judge Christina Klinger’s squashing of the voters’ will and cannabis becoming legal July 2021.

Mississippi Today reported on June 28, 2021, that state lawmakers, contrary to the will of the state Supreme Court and the mayor of Madison, Mississippi, held discussions with officials from medical marijuana states Utah and Oklahoma to help determine what type of medical marijuana program will be best for Mississippi.

The establishment of a cannabis industry regulated at the federal level is often seen as inevitable because so much money is at stake in the burgeoning green economy, including a windfall of tax revenue, jobs and wealth creation.

A less cynical view of the unstoppable appeal of marijuana legalization is not based on financial considerations. The momentum toward universal cannabis legalization is driven by bipartisan experience of medical marijuana in alleviating physical, emotional and spiritual conditions across the full spectrum of American political identities.

The normalization of cannabis is inevitable because cannabis does such a great job of normalizing all of us.

Written by
Allan MacDonell
Allan MacDonell

Allan MacDonell’s work has been featured in publications ranging from Dazed and Confused UK to the New York Times and Washington Post. He is the author of Prisoner of X, Punk Elegies and Now That I Am Gone, and was a founding editorial director at online outlets including Buzznet, TakePart and Kindland. MacDonell views teaming with Leafwell as an opportunity to encourage the emerging role of legal cannabis as a highly effective medical treatment.

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