Home Legislative Is Federal Legalization Inevitable in the U.S.?

Is Federal Legalization Inevitable in the U.S.?

© Stock Pot Images / Kristen Angelo

The word “inevitable” is used quite a bit when people talk about progress in the cannabis law reform movement and when they discuss legalization itself. It’s a word that tends to degrade all the work that has come from activists over the last several decades, even though that’s not what those who use the word are intending most of the time.

But beyond that, belief in the inevitability of something can be a dangerous thing. If any part of you believes that something will happen independent of your actions to make it happen, your will to provide that action starts to wane. Even if you think something is inevitable if you work as hard as you can at it, you can be setting yourself up for a disappointment you are not expecting and are not ready to recover from.

So let’s discuss the inevitability of the federal legalization of cannabis in the United States. It’s true that our movement has had momentum when it comes to legalization since the huge victories on Election Night 2012. Public opinion polls have been trending well in favor of legalization for decades, with huge gains in just the last 10 years. But when you are a journey, while it’s nice to have support behind you, you have to be focused on the roadblocks in front of you.

While this is a slight oversimplification of the matter, it’s safe to say that Republicans and old Democrats in the Senate are standing between legalization legislation and the White House. More specifically, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shows very little interest in advancing the marijuana aspect of cannabis law reform.

Last year, McConnell flexed his political muscle to legalize hemp on the federal level. So, if he wanted to support marijuana legalization – or even something smaller, like The SAFE Banking Act – he could be instrumental in getting it through the Senate. On the other hand, if he is not supportive, the issue is likely dead in the water.

For his part, McConnell has met with marijuana industry leaders to hear them out, but still has not shown any support for legalization. This leaves us with the results of next year’s election, especially in regards to the Senate seats up for grabs. If the Democrats can gain control of the Senate, keep control of the House and win the White House, it would be the easiest path for legalization to become law.

But that’s a lot of ifs, and should the Senate remains in GOP hands, it greatly reduces the odds of legalization getting to a President’s desk, no matter what party that President represents. In other words, 2021 is going to be our first real shot at legalization on the federal level, so we need to be ready.

And if circumstances line up in the right way, we need to be ready to push on every front right out of the gate in January 2021.


  1. From the article:

    >>>”should the Senate remains in GOP hands, it greatly reduces the odds of legalization getting to a President’s desk, no matter what party that President represents.”

    Did you not hear that both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have stated they would end the federal prohibition by executive order? – That would be that.