In November, Michigan became the tenth state to legalize recreational marijuana, but the number of legal states could potentially double by year’s end. States like Illinois, whose new governor has made it known that he wants Illinois to beat Michigan to claim the title of the first midwest state to sell legal marijuana, are looking to legalize pot through their legislatures rather than at the ballot box. A legal marijuana map that included all regions of the country, rather than weighted to the mountain west, would place a new level of pressure on a Democratic-controlled Congress to get something done. And for the first time in several years, Congress seems ready for the challenge.
“This is the first Congress in history where, going into it, it seems that broad marijuana reforms are actually achievable,” said Tom Angell, an advocate-journalist who runs Marijuana Moment.
Members of Congress are lining up to introduce bills that never saw the light of day when Republicans ran the show. Two bills have already been filed: a re-introduction of the CARERS Act by Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), which would expand marijuana research, allow VA doctors to discuss it with veteran patients; and prevent the federal government from meddling with state-legal programs without removing marijuana from the schedules created by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970; and H.R. 420, the “Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act” by Blumenauer, which would remove marijuana from the list of most dangerous drugs, “de-scheduling it” in Congress-speak, and shift regulatory authority to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.