Cannabis Federal Legalization: Will it Ever Happen?

Cannabis is fully legal in 24 states. Medical marijuana is allowed in 24 states. But it is still illegal on a federal level. Many people are wondering, will cannabis become federally legal? And if so, when will it happen? This article will review the pros and cons of cannabis federal legalization and what’s being done.


What are the Benefits of Cannabis Federal Legalization?

Economic Benefits

Marijuana legalization increases tax revenues, job growth, and investment opportunities. States that legalized weed generated proceeds of $3.7 billion in taxes in 2021, twice what they collected in 2019.

Legal states like Colorado and Washington have seen the economic benefits of cannabis legalization. Washington collected $559.5 million in legal marijuana tax revenue, an $85 million increase over 2019. Colorado collected $423 million in 2021 cannabis tax revenue, a 10% increase over the previous year.

If cannabis federal legalization happens, economic experts predict the industry could generate an additional $105.6 in federal taxes by 2025.

Job opportunities would also increase. An RCG Economics and Marijuana Study shows Nevada legalization measures could create over 41,000 jobs by 2024 and generate over $1.7 billion in labor income. An ICF study estimates that California could see over 81,000 jobs created by the cannabis industry and an increased labor income of $3.5 billion or more.

A New Frontier Report estimates that cannabis federal legalization could create 1 million jobs nationwide by 2025.

Legal weed would also increase investment opportunities. Currently, investors do not have the option of investing in cannabis businesses through over-the-counter exchanges due to legalization issues. As a result, most successful cannabis businesses are in Canada and other countries.

If cannabis federal legalization happens, marijuana companies could list their stock on U.S. exchanges and create more mutually beneficial relationships with investors.

Cannabis federal legalization would also save the government money. A 2013 American Civil Liberties Union report found that the federal government spends about $3.6 billion a year on marijuana law enforcement. Legalizing cannabis would lower the cost and reduce the government budget.  

Health Benefits

Cannabis federal legalization would make marijuana more accessible to people who need it for medical reasons. It would provide access to veterans who count on it to relieve pain and treat PTSD. It would allow doctors to prescribe it to patients who need it to improve their well-being.

Health Life Medical Exercise Concept
Health Life Medical Exercise Concept

Scientific studies show that cannabis treats addictive tendencies and may reduce opioid dependence. Increased legalization measures would make it more available to addicts and treatment centers. More effective addiction treatment means fewer deaths and less crime.

Legalization would also open doors to more cannabis research. Scientists could determine the best uses, ideal doses, and potential side effects.

Increased Market Regulations

Currently, the cannabis market is highly unregulated. Many products are not as pure and potent as advertised. They can cause health risks and unpleasant side effects.

Cannabis federal legalization would put regulations in place nationwide. It would set clear guidelines for companies to follow in terms of how they advertise their products. It would make the industry safer overall.

Are There Downsides to Federal Cannabis Legalization?

There is evidence that marijuana can be harmful to health. It has the potential for addiction. It can be damaging to lung and heart health.

Federal legalization would increase health risks. It would also make it more accessible to children who accidentally consume it.

These are valid arguments, but hopefully, if marijuana were legalized, the pros would outweigh the cons.

Progress Made Towards Cannabis Federal Legalization

Progress has been made towards cannabis federal legalization in the Biden Administration. In 2022, the President pardoned all individuals federally convicted of marijuana possession.

The administration has recently made its biggest move towards cannabis federal legalization so far. The Department of Human Services has recommended cannabis be rescheduled from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug.

The drug is currently classified as Schedule I meaning it has a high tendency for addiction and little medical benefit. Rescheduling it will put it in a category with drugs with a lower tendency for addiction and more medical benefits. It will also allow businesses to claim tax benefits that they are not currently eligible for due to cannabis’s Schedule I status.

The rescheduling measure must be approved by the DEA before it is finalized. The process could take years.

Criticism of Biden’s Cannabis Federal Legalization Efforts

The Biden administration has taken steps toward legalization. But many say it’s not enough.

Although the President has pardoned people for marijuana possession, he did not issue expungements that would clear convictions from their records.

Critics also state that his efforts to reschedule marijuana don’t address social inequality issues. Rescheduling will not eliminate potentially violent police interactions regarding marijuana possession, which disproportionately affects minority communities. It also increases tax benefits for existing cannabis business owners, most of whom are white.

Closeup of diverse people joining their hands
Closeup of diverse people joining their hands

It also does not change anything regarding prescriptions. Doctors will still be unable to prescribe marijuana to patients. FDA approval will have to happen for prescriptions to be issued. Medical experts feel a Schedule III designation will not be enough to motivate the organization.

Many feel that cannabis federal legalization is the only way to truly fix these issues.

Will Cannabis Federal Legalization Ever Happen?

There are a variety of political and professional groups lobbying for cannabis federal legalization. But a new election is coming soon. If Biden stays in office, we could get closer to reaching our goals. But if another candidate takes over, we may not be so lucky.

For example, DeSantis said if he is elected president, he would not decriminalize or legalize cannabis. When Trump was in office, he rescinded Obama-era cannabis industry protections. Chris Christie opposed cannabis legalization when he ran for president in 2016. Democrat Robert Kennedy said he would legalize cannabis but would fall short of legalization.

Experts say we may not see cannabis federal legalization for at least a decade. In the meantime, smoke em if you got em.

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