Legalization: Is 2021 The Year?

It seems long overdue, and as the momentum builds, the reality of legal recreational marijuana nationally seems more inevitable now than ever. Still, there remains some strong resistance in Washington even as more states make the move to allow recreational cannabis laws. Could 2021 be the year federal legislation gets done?

In many ways, the push for federal legalization has reached something like critical mass. Already, three states have passed laws to allow for recreational sales. Virginia, New York, and New Mexico have brought the total to 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, just as the House Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, is jockeying to bring legalization legislation to the House of Representatives.

That same body also passed, for the fourth time, a version of the SAFE Banking Act, which would finally allow banks protections when providing crucial financial services to cannabis companies. So far, it appears Schumer may not have enough support within his own party and, with the Democrats holding a slender lead in the House, losing even a single vote could spoil the movement. President Biden, too, seems less than willing to prioritize cannabis legalization, at least in his year in office. 

As is often the case in progressive issues, politicians lag well beyond the general population. Gallup was the first to track support for legalization way back in 1969. Over the decades, both legalization and decriminalization have steadily seen increasing support. From just 12% in that first poll, the current mark is at an all-time high at 68%. 

Like everything, support for the legalization of marijuana is split along party lines. While 72% of Democrats are behind it, just 47% of Republicans support legal weed for both recreational and medical uses. The most vehemently opposed demographic appears to be Republicans 65 years or older, with only 27% supporting legalization. 

Even if the House can get a comprehensive bill passed, Dems in the Senate don’t seem to have the support they need. Without a plan or interest from Republican Senators, either, it’s doubtful any bill that makes it to the Senate floor would find the backing it needed to become reality.