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Advocates hope for new federal marijuana laws to pass in December

Democrats eye the last weeks in control of the House.
Cannabis
Posted at 2:00 AM, Nov 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-24 05:00:38-05

WASHINGTON — They say you should keep politics out of your Thanksgiving get-together.

However, if your family just can't help themselves, one hot topic in Washington is marijuana and what should be done at the federal level.

Right now legalization varies greatly state-by-state. 21 states have legalized or plan to soon legalize recreational pot.

There are some big questions before Congress right now however including whether cannabis should be legal nationwide.

WHY THE PUSH NOW

While the cannabis industry has been very successful in states in recent years they have been less successful in Washington.

Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and it is still classified by the DEA in the same category as heroin.

After the Thanksgiving holiday, however, get ready for a major push to pass new laws.

"The clock is ticking," said Morgan Fox, the political director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Fox says this upcoming period before January 3rd is viewed as the marijuana industry's best chance to get something done for a while.

Republicans taking over the House in January are not expected to be as much of an ally as the current House of Representatives —which is led by Democrats.

"Key committees will be taken over by some ardent prohibitionists," Fox said.

"We should really try and pass as much as we can and be pragmatic about it," Fox added.

So what could pass? Complete legalization at the federal level?

Don't count on it, say experts. That doesn't seem to have the votes.

However, smaller ideas like safe banking might.

What is it?

Well, many cannabis businesses can't access the U.S. banking system because banking is controlled federally and marijuana is still illegal federally.

A safe banking proposal in Congress would make that possible in states where it is legal.

In Oakland earlier this year, one dispensary owner told us how he was shot during a robbery.

He felt the all-cash nature of the industry made him a target.

"This is just the nature of being in the cannabis industry," Joshua Chase said at the time.

Marijuana-related financial bills like safe banking could be attached to expected votes on the budget in the coming weeks.

However, it won't be easy.

Many conservatives remain opposed, fearing the drug can lead to other addictions as well as crime.

If nothing happens before January, the cannabis industry doesn't view the last two years as a complete failure though.

President Biden issued pardons to thousands with marijuana convictions earlier this year and he is expected to soon sign a landmark research bill soon.