In 1996, California decriminalized the possession of up to one ounce — 28.5 grams — of cannabis and legalized the plant for medical purposes. In 2016, the laws changed again with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, also known as Proposition 64. Adults 21 years of age and older can buy, possess, and use up to one ounce of cannabis in their homes or wherever use is permitted.
While many states have decriminalized cannabis and legalized it for medical or recreational purposes, it’s still a Schedule I drug. Licensed businesses can grow, produce, and sell cannabis products, and consumers can use them — but there are numerous rules and regulations that can make things confusing and complicated.
When will cannabis become federally legal? While it’s hard to know for sure, let’s take a look at what could happen in the future.
Decriminalization vs. Legalization
There’s a good chance that you’ve heard the terms “decriminalization” and “legalization” used a lot when it comes to cannabis. People use these terms interchangeably, but they actually mean two different things.
Decriminalization is the loosening of criminal penalties for possession and use. Users may still face fines, but they aren’t as severe. Additionally, manufacturing and selling cannabis would still be illegal.
Legalization is the lifting of the laws that ban the possession and use of cannabis. It also allows the government to regulate and tax cannabis use and sales.
The Push to Legalize Cannabis
Legalizing cannabis could make it much easier for cannabis distributors, manufacturers, dispensaries, and others to run and grow their businesses.
Now that Democrats control both the House and the Senate, though, many hope that a bill could pass. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with other Democratic senators, plan to push federal legalization in 2021. One way this could happen is with the passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.
The MORE Act passed the House last year, but the Senate has yet to vote on it. While the Democrats do control the Senate, they do so by a very thin margin. The bill would need a decent amount of Republican support to pass. If there’s an even split, Vice President Kamala Harris — a sponsor of the MORE Act — would act as the tie-breaker.
Should the Senate pass the MORE Act, it would go to President Joe Biden’s desk. While Biden’s opinion of cannabis has shifted, he seems to support decriminalization and other modest moves over full federal legalization. Even if he vetoes the bill, the House and Senate could still override the decision. It would, however, require a two-thirds majority from both.
The MORE Act isn’t the only cannabis-related piece of legislation on the line. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is also still waiting to go to the Senate. The passage of this bill would make it easier for cannabis businesses to work with financial institutions.
Grow Your Cannabis Business
Fortunately, even without the MORE Act and SAFE Banking Act, you still have options when it comes to financing for marijuana dispensaries and other related businesses.