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The U.S. Won’t Legalize Marijuana in 2019. Here’s Why.

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Canada may have gone green, but there are plenty of reasons to believe the U.S. isn’t following suit this year.

The legal cannabis industry had itself a year to remember in 2018. Although marijuana stocks were a mixed bag, the weed industry gained validation like never before following the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada. Rolling out the red carpet for cannabis will mean billions of dollars in added annual revenue, and it demonstrates that the cannabis industry is in no danger of disappearing.

There was plenty to cheer about in the United States, too. President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law in December, giving the green light to hemp and hemp-based cannabidiol, while the Food and Drug Administration approved its very first cannabis-derived drug, and a handful of states legalized cannabis in some capacity. Today, roughly two-thirds of U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana, with 10 also allowing adult-use pot.

Calls for cannabis reform in the U.S. pick up steam

Despite all of this progress, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug at the federal level. That means it’s wholly illegal, defined as being prone to abuse, and not recognized as having any medical benefits. The big question is, when does this classification change?

On the surface, there appears to be a ton of momentum behind reform at the federal level. An October 2018 survey from Gallup found that two out of three adults now favor legalizing weed nationally, up from just 33% as recently as 2005. In fact, a half-dozen major polls conducted since January 2018 have found overwhelming support for reforming the current cannabis policy.

State-level legalizations have also put the infrastructure in place in numerous states that would allow a seamless transition between an illicit and legal environment. A handful of states have been retailing adult-use cannabis for multiple years (e.g., Washington and Colorado), with more than half of all states having had medical marijuana legal for at least two years. Reform at the federal level wouldn’t require a lot of effort from most states to amend their infrastructure.

In addition, online publication Marijuana Moment reported this past Tuesday that the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), foresees reform coming sooner rather than later. Said Nadley, “Let me just observe on your time that we may be discussing that [cannabis reform] fairly soon.”

A judge's gavel next to a book on federal and state marijuana laws.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Marijuana legalization is highly unlikely this year

So is this the year that we finally see the veil of prohibition lifted on the U.S. pot industry? The honest answer is that it’s unlikely.

1. Congress isn’t currently friendly toward reform

First, consider the current make-up of our government. Although Democrats recently won back a majority in the House for the first time in eight years, the Senate and presidency are still controlled by Republicans. That’s meaningful for one reason: Republicans have historically had a more negative view of cannabis than people who identify as Democrats or independents.

Even with Gallup finding in its October survey that 53% of self-identified Republicans favored legalization, that’s still well below the percentage of folks who identify as Democrat (75%) or independent (71%) and support legalization. That suggests that Republicans may shun any attempts at federal reform, even if a Democratic-backed bill passes the House. With the GOP laser-focused on border reform, a federal cannabis bill doesn’t look to have a good shot at passing in 2019.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Sean Williams on The Motley Fool

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Published: February 03, 2019

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