Even if 2020 seemed to bring the world to a screeching halt, the cannabis reform movement was hard at work. Now, with a new calendar year and a new administration in the White House, a massive push is underway to put cannabis over the top in 2021. To that end, the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC) has thrown its hat in the ring. Billing itself as the largest coalition of its kind, it includes top standalone and multistate businesses, advocacy groups, and associations from throughout the entire breadth of North America.
What does the USCC hope to achieve, and how close are we to legal cannabis? As always, here’s the straight dope.
U.S. Cannabis Council Launches a Unified Front for Federal Reform
From Illinois to New Mexico and beyond, we’ve written an awful lot about efforts to push cannabis legalization (while baking in meaningful reform efforts). But because of the persistent state of federal prohibition, these movements have largely been small and local in scope, leading to multiple redundancies and overlaps.
Don’t get us wrong, these movements have been incredibly effective. In the span of a few years, cannabis has gone from Public Enemy #1, legally speaking, to being available for adult use in 15 states (and the District of Columbia) and available for medical use in some 35. Innovative initiatives like the Cannabis Advocacy Program aim to seed and inspire the next generation of organizers, professionals and champions. But the more far-sighted recognize that in order to solve outstanding issues such as interstate commerce, banking, research, justice system reform and other still, nothing short of federal legalization will do.
That’s the stated goal of the USCC, an impressively broad coalition representing figures from across the spectrum of the cannabis industry. From the Canadian power player Acreage Holdings to the Veterans Cannabis Project to multistate medical cannabis leaders Vireo Health (full disclosure: a Foottraffik client) and beyond, the USCC’s membership is a Who’s-Who of major industry players.
U.S. Cannabis Council: Fully Dedicated to Meaningful Justice Reform
That said, the USCC aspires to be much more than a trade group. Undoubtedly intended as an unmistakable signal to proponents of social equity, the group chose as its interim CEO Steven Hawkins, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, self-described as the leading national organization dedicated to legalizing cannabis.
Hawkins brings an astonishing three decades of experience to the task, starting as an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund challenging race-based disparities in the criminal justice system to his groundbreaking work fighting to abolish the death penalty. Eventually rising to serve as the executive vice president of the NAACP, Hawkins successfully lobbied the organization to enact an historic turn towards supporting cannabis decriminalization.
Now, as the USCC’s interim director and its most public face, Steven Hawkins brings a wealth of experience and determination to the challenge of ending federal cannabis prohibition. With a mission encompassing the use of restorative justice for those communities most impacted by prohibition, the expungement of cannabis-related criminal records, and the promotion of a legal, safe, and responsible culture of cannabis consumption and use, the USCC heralds the highest-profile effort yet in the push towards fully legal cannabis.
U.S. Cannabis Council: Are We On the Verge of Legalization?
How close are we to reaching that goal? As we’ve reported previously, 2021 had barely begun before we saw a spate of high-profile announcements from such figures as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY). In a joint statement with senators Cory Booker (NJ) and Ron Wyden (OR), Schumer reiterated his desire to bring cannabis reform to Congress early this year.
Last year, of course, saw the House pass the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act only to have it hit the roadblock of the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats have an edge in Congress’ upper body, there’s real hope that we’re on the verge of lasting cannabis law reform.
As always, we’re keeping a very close eye on this story. Check back here early and often for updates as they become available.