Written by Abhi Dewan ‘19, U.S. Federal Policy Liaison
November 3rd, 2020 was a date many of us were anxiously awaiting. Though it wasn’t until November 7th that we got the complete picture, on the 3rd we knew we’d won. Drug policy reform ballots across the nation toppled the old dogmas surrounding drug use. Oregon became the inaugural state to decriminalize personal possession of all drugs. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota voted to legalize marijuana. Mississippi and South Dakota legalized medical marijuana. Oregon also legalized a ‘breakthrough therapy’ for depression and anxiety using psilocybin.
Regardless of what happened after, on the night of the 3rd we knew we could take some solace in drug policy reform’s victory throughout states nationwide. Now, we know we can retain hope of reform at a federal level also. Senator and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris introduced the Marijuana, Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, the cornerstone marijuana justice bill, into Congress. During her campaign, she championed systematic change concerning marijuana reform, affirming “This is no time for half-steppin’. This is no time for incrementalism.” With a Biden-Harris administration set to take the White House, a Democratic majority in the House, and a possibility of Democratic control in the Senate, marijuana’s future is looking bright. The question which remains is when and how is marijuana policy going to catch up to public reality?
A Look Into The Future: What Might Happen
In the House, Democrats will retain the majority, but the Senate is still a toss-up. With the current tally at 48 to 48, Georgia’s two Senate seats are heading to runoffs. If the results favor the Democrats, they will gain control of the Senate with Vice President-Elect Harris acting as the tie-breaking vote. However, while that does not look likely, state-wide ballots which passed across the country have shown marijuana policy issue is not partisan. The MORE Act, a bipartisan bill, currently enjoys 118 cosponsors, and House leadership announced it will move to the House floor for a vote this December during the lame duck session. Following it’s anticipated success in the House, it is highly unlikely that its Senate counterpart (S.2227) will go anywhere in December.
However, we can expect the MORE Act to be reintroduced in both chambers next session. President-elect Biden’s stated desire to unify the nation, commitment to bipartisanship and the Biden-Harris administration’s stance favoring systematic marijuana policy reform lends itself to marijuna justice happening. Regardless of the outcome of the Senate race, there is still hope that our nation’s elected officials will choose to do the right thing in a bipartisan Congress, on a bipartisan issue with bipartisan public support — if held accountable to their constituents.
That’s why we need your help. The U.S. Policy Council is hosting its first ever Policy Summit to help form our organization policy direction for the next year. Our members will then fight for our agenda to do exactly that — hold Congress accountable. We’ve done it in the past, and we will keep doing it in the future. But we can’t do it without your support. So please, consider making your voice heard: sign up for the inaugural SSDP U.S. Policy Summit.