Will Federal Marijuana Legalization in 2022 Happen?

Hopes were high in early 2021 that new President Joe Biden and a Democrat-controlled Congress would legalize marijuana at the federal level. But while cannabis becoming more mainstream is one of the expected trends of 2022, marijuana legalization in 2022 is not for many in the industry.

Efforts to pass a marijuana legalization bill, despite many promises made by Democrats, has not yet happened. In recent interviews with NBC, some in the cannabis industry voiced concern whether it will happen at all in the near future.

Narmin Jarrous, chief development officer of Michigan-based cannabis company Exclusive Brands, told NBC the lack of action by Congress is frustrating. “We can always make excuses for why things don’t get done but,” she said. “At the end of the day, that doesn’t help the people in prison and it doesn’t help the people who are continuously being affected by the war on drugs.”

Where Federal Marijuana Legalization Stands in 2022

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act would have cleared the way for banks to provide financial services to cannabis companies without fear of reprisals by the federal government. Banks currently keep clear of providing these services, even in states where marijuana is legal. It’s led to many dispensaries having to operate with cash, which has made them targets for theft.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act which would have decriminalized marijuana at the federal level. Late in 2021, Republicans filed the States Reform Act that would have essentially decriminalized marijuana use.

None of these bills have passed. Jarrous told NBC, “I know there are paths forward for the industry, but I’m becoming more and more cynical of Congress’ ability or desire to do anything.”

However, Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, said while the slow process is frustrating, people should note that there has been movement forward. Steven Hawkins, CEO of the US Cannabis Council, echoed that sentiment, saying debate at the national level is a signal that change is inevitable.

Joe Biden May Present a Roadblock

The ambivalence about moving forward on marijuana may reflect the attitude of President Biden. His stance on cannabis has not changed since the campaign: he still opposes legalization. But it’s not like he has hidden his feelings about the issue.

During the campaign, Biden made it clear that he could back decriminalization, but never came out in favor of legalization. He maintained this position even in the face of almost every other candidate favoring legalization.

Once he got into office, he fired five members of his staff for cannabis use in the first year of his administration.

On April 20, 2021, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki detailed Biden’s position on marijuana. She did so in response to Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer saying publicly he supports legalization.

She said Biden supports leaving recreational legalization up to the states, rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule II illegal drug so researchers can conduct more studies, decriminalizing marijuana and expunging marijuana convictions from criminal records.

Asked if Biden would sign a legalization bill if Congress passed one, she responded, “Well, I just have outlined what his position is, which isn’t the same as what the House and Senate have proposed.”

That makes Biden’s position clear, and also gives cannabis advocates a good idea of the uphill climb they face in making federal marijuana legalization in 2022 a reality.

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