What to Expect in 2023

The first two years of the Biden administration proved slow for cannabis reform. In the same vein as the past several decades of drug legislation, 2020 and 2021 both proved stagnant on the reform front. That changed this year when President Biden pardoned simple federal possession records and signed off on the first cannabis research bill to pass through Capitol Hill.

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2022 marked significant progress, albeit slow and long sought-after. The moves made by Biden and Congress mark the first incremental steps in what advocates have long hoped for. Still, the wins commemorated a certain degree of success. However, developments during the lame-duck dampened many expectations when record reform and banking bills failed to be included in the NDAA and the omnibus government funding bills.

 

The next iteration of Congress will see a power split between the Republicans and Democrats. What impact, if any, this will have on reform remains to be seen. Skepticism remains in the air as advocates worry about obstruction from both sides of the aisle. That said, lawmakers in both chambers appear open and possibly motivated to pass reform bills in the next Congress.

What Could We See From The House?

Republicans have traditionally been opposed to cannabis reform. However, a growing crop of conservative lawmakers has been pushing back on this notion for several years. Now back in control of the House by a slim margin, the GOP may move forward on some type of cannabis legislation. With lawmakers, including Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH), Brian Mast (R-FL) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) championing reform during the lame duck and the next Congressional session, more GOP attempts at reform could be on the way sooner than later.

 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for the end of federal cannabis prohibition. With an attempt at incremental reform failing during this year's lame duck session, Congress members like Joyce expect more comprehensive reform efforts in the next year or two. He cited the rise of younger lawmakers taking a seat in Congress as a driving factor.

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What Could We See From Senate?

The Democrats appeared poised to increase Senate power slightly during the next Congressional session. However, the early December decision from Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema to change parties to Independent did shake up the outlook for the next session to some degree. That said, Democrats will still have power and Vice President Harris to cast the deciding vote during any ties.

 

With Chuck Schumer once again leading the Senate majority rather than Mitch McConnell and the GOP, cannabis does appear to have a receptive leader in Senate once again. That said, the Democrats could not secure the 60 votes needed to advance any meaningful cannabis legislation besides the research bill during the last session. And with McConnell's reputation of being a legislative blocker of bills he doesn't support, cannabis may still find itself facing an uphill battle in Senate.

It remains to be seen whether cannabis reform is a top priority for the GOP in the House. Despite certain members calling for cannabis reform, numerous other topics could take precedence. With the investigation of Hunter Biden's laptop serving as their first announced inquiry and cannabis views split among certain GOP members, we do not know how much time or energy will go into pot reform.

That said, reform does have its support on both sides of the aisle. It has been rumored that Republicans could face a battle of politics versus policy regarding cannabis. Even if a lawmaker does not support cannabis reform, pressure from their legal state marketplace could sway the decision. 

 

With uncertainty among the GOP and the Democrats unable to secure 60 votes for cannabis legislation so far, all bets are off as to what could happen in Senate the next time around. 

 

The country is bracing for another two years of infighting between the parties. That said, with cannabis consistently proving to be a unifying topic among the public, one has to wonder how long it will take before reform passes through Congress.

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