Budget deal is latest sign of Democrats’ empty weed promises

That wasn’t the only supply of weed left on the cutting room floor.

The spending bill also failed to protect state-regulated recreational cannabis markets, expand medical marijuana research, or protect veterans who use cannabis — two issues widely supported by both. gone.

“I’m very frustrated and really disappointed,” Rep. Lou Correa
(D-Calif.), a champion of cannabis policy change. “The polls in this country are out of this world that people want to normalize cannabis use… So what’s the problem?”

No more weed problems

This is just the latest example of Democrats failing to make meaningful changes to cannabis policy when it is seemingly within their reach. Earlier this year, Senate Democrats removed language from the National Defense Authorization Act this would have facilitated industry access to banking services. This legislation was twice approved by the House with huge majorities, including more than 100 Republicans, but made no progress in the Senate.

Democrats have been locked in an internal debate over the right approach to revising federal cannabis policies. Schumer and other key senators have resisted piecemeal changes, insisting that any cannabis legislation address broader criminal justice reforms, even if there is little evidence they can. collect 60 votes for a major package.

Many advocates saw support for DC’s choice to legalize as an easy step toward criminal justice reform championed by Schumer.

“It’s hard to trust congressional leaders for comprehensive reform when they can’t even commit to authorizing local reform which, in theory, should be easy,” said Queen Adesuyi, senior official. national policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that lobbies for the decriminalization of all drugs.

Democrats insist they still plan to make big changes to federal cannabis policy in the final nine months of this Congress. Schumer, senator. Cory Booker
(DN.J.) and Sen. Ron Wyden
(D-Ore.) released a bill to decriminalize and regulate marijuana at the federal level last summer, but the official bill has yet to come to fruition. Schumer said last month he hoped to introduce it in April, although time is running out to pass such a substantial bill before the end of 2022.

“The path to marijuana legislation has always encountered obstacles, but the discussion on legalizing marijuana has progressed further in 15 months than in the past decade because of Democratic leadership,” Schumer said in a statement to POLITICO Friday.

Broader political failures

Lack of progress on cannabis policy illustrates Democrats’ bigger failures to deliver on campaign promises – from immigration reform to President Joe Biden’s social spending bill. In the end, additional pandemic aid was even cut from the 2022 budget, due to wrangling among House Democrats over how to pay for it.

Confronted with these failures, Democrats point to the many obstacles they have faced since taking office, including the war in Ukraine and a one-vote majority in the Senate.

representing Count Blumenauer
(D-Ore.), a longtime champion of marijuana legalization, called the behind-the-scenes budget negotiations a “collapse” of the entire appropriations process, complaining that the behind-the-scenes deliberations give lawmakers too much veto power over small provisions. A leading source, meanwhile, told POLITICO that Republican leaders have drawn a line on legacy riders, meaning pushing for the removal of the DC sales ban — known as the Harris Rider — could have been a poison pill for the budget bill.

But ultimately, the blame lies with Democrats, who have slim majorities in both chambers.

“Probably the most important power of the Majority Leader is the ability to get the bills paid,” Schumer told POLITICO in April 2021, when he announced his plan to federally decriminalize cannabis.

John Hudak, a cannabis policy expert at the Brookings Institution, says no lawmaker will vote against the federal budget because it removes the Harris Rider, originally introduced by Rep. Andy Harris
(R-Md.).

“I can guarantee you,” Hudak said, “If Chuck Schumer wanted the Harris Rider removed, the Harris Rider would be removed.”

Ultimately, Hudak said, Democrats can’t be blamed for failing to get across the finish line on comprehensive reform, especially when they have such a narrow margin in the Senate. But their failure to pass smaller provisions shows just how willing leaders are to fight for cannabis policy.

In fact, many bewildered advocates and frustrated pro-cannabis lawmakers on Wednesday pointed to broad voter support for cannabis legalization. Eighteen states, the District of Columbia and three territories have legalized recreational marijuana in the past decade. Two-thirds of American voters support legalization, including half of Republican voters and 83% of Democrats.

However, it is unclear why this does not translate into cannabis policy on Capitol Hill.

“You give us both rooms, [you] give us the president — and [we’ll give you] cannabis,” Correa said Wednesday, adding that Democrats made similar promises in 2020 on immigration policy, which also has yet to run its course in Congress. “What happened?”