• September 26, 2020

The Great Divide: When it comes to cannabis, Washington remains completely out of touch with its constituents

 The Great Divide: When it comes to cannabis, Washington remains completely out of touch with its constituents

Photo Courtesy of Mattes (Public Domain)

Marijuana sales continue around the country as more and more Americans show support for both recreational and medical cannabis. At the same time, Washington politicians, whether of the blue or red persuasion, continue to overlook their voters’ wishes.

New Frontier Data, which does research and analysis for the cannabis industry, found record sales in Oregon for March, April, and May. Monthly sales in Colorado reached nearly $200 million in May, while Michigan medical sales were up almost 50 percent. New Frontier found that average consumer monthly spending rose to record highs in April and May around the country. The latest Gallup poll has 67 percent of Americans supporting legal cannabis, and even to a poll skeptic like me, this tells us something. Those numbers have been rising the last couple of years. Support for medical cannabis is at almost 90 percent of voters.

Meanwhile, in Congress, those numbers don’t seem to register. Now it appears that after House Dems included it in their version, the Republicans won’t be adding banking relief for cannabis businesses to the latest COVID relief bill, albeit discussions with Mitch McConnell continue The bid to add it to the Senate version is led by Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who is in a difficult battle with former governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, to retain his Senate seat. Even that didn’t convince Majority Leader McConnell or enough Republicans to include it.

At the same time, the Democrats have caved to Joe Biden’s decriminalization plan. This is perhaps the most depressing news of all. The race for president this year is going to be close, and the Dems blew a great chance to actually craft something for which their constituencies are asking. (Need we mention that Congress continues to stall cannabis sales in the District of Columbia, though 70 percent of its citizens voted for it years ago?) As has been pointed out many times in the past, decriminalization fails on almost every level. You can buy and possess small quantities of cannabis, but the person selling it to you can be arrested? Is the plan to try and educate the millions of cannabis-inclined Americans that it’s bad for us and we should quit? Is Joe Biden really the right person to be leading this?

Why is Washington in no hurry to enact legalization measures? There’s a good argument that says state legalization should proceed without any federal involvement.  We’ve already seen the confusion as the Feds begin to regulate the hemp industry. Why would legalization of adult-use be any different or easier, many argue. Which agency will be in charge? Who would write the rules? What schedule should cannabis be moved to from its current “dangerous drug” classification?

Sean Williams speculated recently on The Fool weblog that one of the reasons Washington is in no hurry to legalize is because of 280E, a little-known statute that allows the Feds to collect taxes from businesses considered “illegal.” Oh yeah, if you didn’t know already, though the federal government is always yapping about cannabis being federally illegal, it’s not shy about demanding taxes from any of those “illegal” businesses. More importantly, 280E disallows those businesses from taking tax breaks available to any other businesses, which means they pay enormous federal bills to operate. If cannabis were legal and businesses allowed to take deductions like any other company in the US, it might mean less money for the Feds. Weird? Yes, but not necessarily fiction. 

Whatever the motive, this is just another reason to support the idea of having more than two parties. Neither party, today, seems as interested in the people who voted for them as they are about staying in power or demonizing the other side. America is surely divided, and one way to help bridge that gap would be to allow voters more choices, including candidates that support legal cannabis. It’s in their favor to keep this a two-party system, and Democrats and Republicans have the money and clout to control the argument and keep it that way. Voters aren’t happy with either side of the aisle, and not until senators and representatives begin to listen to the people who put them in office will they gain our respect again. How about a purple or a green out there in that sea of red and blue

 

Leland Rucker

Leland Rucker

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now TheNewsStation.com. He covered the popular music industry for years, worked extensively in internet and cable news, and co-authored The Toy Book, a history of OK Boomer playthiings. Sweet Lunacy, his documentary film co-written and produced with Don Chapman, is a history of the Boulder music scene from the 1950s through the 1980s. He is author and editor of Dimensional Cannabis, the first pop-up book of marijuana.

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