If you’re following any of the news coming out of Washington that doesn’t involve defacing government buildings and pissing on democracy, then you may have heard that Biden picked Merrick Garland as attorney general.
In case you slept through your Government 101 class, the attorney general is the country’s highest-ranking law enforcement official. And that means Garland is likely to be at the helm of shaping federal cannabis policy.
Given that he’s a Democrat, this begs the question – could legalization under Merrick Garland actually occur? Well, first, we have to answer the following question:
Who Is Merrick Garland?
Who is any of us, really? But existential questioning aside, Garland is a US Appeals Court Judge. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he was Obama’s pick to fill the empty Supreme Court seat back in 2016.
You remember 2016. The year when things started turning south and eventually culminated in the year 2020.
Back then, Mitch McConnell blocked the nomination until the end of Obama’s term so that current and now up twice for impeachment president could fill it with Neil Gorsuch instead.
So Could Legalization Under Merrick Garland Become a Reality?
It’s amazing to think that half the country has embraced legalization, while the other half still lives under prohibition. Then again, since we could more accurately be called the Divisive States of America these days, it’s not that amazing.
At any rate, it’s hard to say what this new attorney general might do. Garland has been relatively silent on the issue of cannabis legalization throughout his career. Even so, he was part of a three-judge panel who denied petitioners’ challenge of the scheduling of cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
This was eight years ago though. And he heard the case prior to the election of November 2012 marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington.
These days, more than two-thirds of Americans support legalization for adults. And though Biden still remains opposed to legalization at the federal level, perhaps Garland’s view has changed.
Does It Really Matter Though?
Now, with the recent passage of the MORE Act in the House and Democrats soon holding majority in the Senate, that piece of legislation may no longer be a pipe dream.
Cannabis advocates remain hopeful that Biden won’t veto popular legislation passed by his own party.
Whatever the case, it’s hard to deny that the prevailing shift in the country is from prohibition to legalization. As such, the role of law enforcement and the attorney general continues to diminish in the cannabis arena.
On Obama’s clock, US Attorneys merely directed individual enforcement actions against legal cannabis business while allowing the industry to evolve and legalization to bloom.
And consider this.
Even one of Trump’s previous marijuana-hating attorney generals Jeff Sessions wasn’t able to do much damage. He spoke openly and fallaciously (of course) of the evils of marijuana. But in the end, he was only able to revoke an Obama-era policy statement that offered guidance to states that chose to legalize and regulate marijuana. And to almost no real effect.
Of course, when William Barr followed Sessions as attorney general, he played it dirtier. He went so far as to instigate a number of unwarranted harassment investigations of completely legal cannabis companies on antitrust grounds.
For Now, Look to the Senate
Previously, the words “look to the Senate” for resolving any issues around cannabis would be akin to saying “run straight into a wall.”
With the Georgia run-off last week giving the Senate to the Democrats though, there’s hope for the aforementioned MORE Act now. If the Senate passes it as well, we could be looking at a real chance for federal legalization – regardless of Garland’s position.
And with a Democratic President and Congress, there’s even the prospect of de-escalating the federal War on Marijuana that’s been raging since the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937.
Brighter days are on the horizon…
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