Marijuana legalization is not among the key issues being discussed among presidential candidates in the 2016 election, but that fact that the topic was discussed at all is extraordinary. Although Congress has taken some positive steps toward the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, like allowing legal cannabis states to operate without federal interference, no one could guarantee that the next president would not close down the pot industry.
Could a new president attempt to step in state marijuana laws?
The Marijuana Policy Project, the biggest organization of this kind in the country, has the main purpose to stop marijuana prohibition. Director of communication for the MPP Mason Tvert said that it is an improbable scenario: according to national polls, most of the American citizens support the legalization of cannabis. Last year’s Gallup poll showed that more than fifty percent of residents believe that medical marijuana should be legal, sixty percent want to prohibit the federal government to exert influence over state cannabis laws.
In 2012, Colorado approved Amendment 64—a ballot measure that allows “personal use and regulation of cannabis” for people 21 and over. Tvert said that this initiative made it difficult for officials to abolish the law.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws announced their support for anti-prohibitionist presidential candidates. Allen St. Pierre is executive director of this organization. He emphasized that many states, including California, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Missouri and Maine, are of the same opinion on this matter.
Another supporter of the cannabis legalization, Diana DeGette (D-CO) announced her intent to reestablish the “Respect States’ and Citizens Rights Act”, the bill that had to provide protection for pot businesses to operate in legal states, but failed three years ago. The pot industry suffers from a conflict between federal and state laws, she said. So, lawmakers should not have to wait for the presidential election, but to react immediately. Another initiative was introduced by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and referred to subcommittee this May. The “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015” was going to provide similar measures.
However, this bill inevitably became a part of more than twenty other legislative acts: they had not enough supporters in the Congress.
Under state laws marijuana remains legal, and the Obama administration can do nothing about it. Tvert believes that the new administration could slow the progress with cannabis policy reform down, but not stop it. And no matter who is the winner of the presidential election 2016 —pro-cannabis states will continue to fight for legalization.