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House Panel Advances New Bill to Legalize Recreational Cannabis…

Poll Shows 66% of Americans Want Recreational Marijuana Legalized

If there’s one thing all politicians in Washington, D.C. can agree on, it’s that they want to be re-elected. So, if they want to be on the same page as their electorate, they better get on board with legalizing recreational marijuana. Right now, it seems like they’re lumbering in that direction.

On September 30, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to decriminalize and deschedule cannabis. The bill passed with a resounding 26–15 majority. (Source: “House Committee Advances Bill to Legalize Marijuana,” Roll Call, September 30, 2021.)

The measure was sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York. Republicans Matt Gaetz of Florida and Tom McClintock of California joined the Democrats in advancing the bill. The rest of the House Republicans voted against it.

The bill had already been passed in the chamber last year, but it stalled in the then-Republican-controlled Senate.

In July, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer unveiled a similar bill, which would decriminalize recreational cannabis, erase the records of nonviolent marijuana offenders, and allow those currently serving time to petition a court for resentencing.

The bill that Schumer co-sponsored would decriminalize and deschedule cannabis and implement a federal tax on marijuana products.

The legislation would also allow most individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses to have their records expunged, with the exception of those considered to be “kingpins,” or those who helped oversee a criminal drug ring.

The outlook for the bill is unclear. Schumer and his co-sponsors haven’t formally introduced their draft bill yet. Even then, no one knows if President Joe Biden will sign the bill if it does pass the more-conservative Senate.

Biden has said he likes the idea of decriminalizing marijuana, but he hasn’t said he backs full marijuana legalization.

If anything, Biden is a little out of step with what’s going on in his country. In a Las Vegas town hall in late 2019, Biden said he wanted to see more research on cannabis, and suggested it may be a “gateway drug.” (Source: “Biden Says Marijuana May Be a ‘Gateway Drug.’ Like Most of His Generation, He’s Not Ready to Legalize It.” The Washington Post, November 18, 2019.)

Biden is more in step with Donald Trump, who has said he’s fine with leaving the status of legalizing recreational marijuana up to individual states.

Biden and others may want more research conducted on the merits of cannabis, but it seems like the vast majority of Americans are happy with what they already know.

According to a new poll, 66% of American adults are in favor of legalizing cannabis. (Source: “Harris Poll: Two-Thirds of US Adults Favor Legalizing Marijuana,” NORML, October 7, 2021.)

Support was highest among millennials (79%) and Generation X (76%). At the other end of the spectrum are baby boomers, with just under 50% of them backing recreational marijuana legalization.

Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of Americans (84%) say recreational and medical marijuana should be legal.

Analyst Take

More and more Americans are on board with legalizing recreational marijuana, but the outlook for new cannabis laws is still fragile. Should the Democrats lose their majority in the House, it will make advancing a bill to legalize recreational cannabis an uphill battle—at least in the near term.

But money and votes talk. The global cannabis industry is expected to be a multi-trillion-dollar industry. In U.S. states where marijuana is legal, sales have been putting billions of dollars into the coffers of cash-strapped cities and states.

It’s important to point out that legalizing recreational marijuana in Canada and Mexico hasn’t led to the demise of either nation or the corruption of its youth. Federal U.S. marijuana legalization is inevitable. Eventually, Congress will wake up to what the country wants and take action.

U.S. pot stocks have experienced some bumps along the way, but for the most part, they’ve provided tremendous gains to investors. But those gains will pale in comparison to what will happen when recreational cannabis becomes federally legal in the U.S.

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