There has been talk of legalizing marijuana at the federal level. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to that effect in 2020; it is expected a new bill will be introduced this year. A Democrat-controlled Senate certainly enhances the chances of passage.
There are no guarantees that federal decriminalization will happen this year or next. There are no guarantees it will ever happen. But let us assume decriminalization is eventually achieved. What happens next? The possibilities are endless. Here are five things that could happen fairly quickly:
1. The States Follow
As things currently stand, thirty-six states and the District of Columbia allow medical cannabis at minimum. Recreational marijuana use is allowed in ten states and the District. Full decriminalization at the federal level would almost certainly force the remaining forty states to follow. It would be awfully hard to continue outlawing marijuana when federal law recognizes it as legal.
Does that mean states would follow with no restrictions? Absolutely not. The states still restrict alcohol sales and consumption. They still license bars and liquor stores. There is no reason to believe they would just throw up their hands and allow the marijuana industry to be a free-for-all.
2. Taxation Begins
One of the arguments in favor of legalizing pot across the board is its potential to generate tax revenue. We all know how that goes. No politician ever turned down the opportunity to tax. Full decriminalization at the federal level would almost certainly lead to immediate taxation. We are talking sales taxes at the state level and income taxes at the federal level. Even local taxes are not out of the question.
3. Growers Come Out of the Woodwork
Growing operations in the U.S. are currently limited by necessity. Any such limits would immediately disappear under a full decriminalization scenario. In fact, it is reasonable to assume that farmers struggling with other crops would eagerly look at marijuana – providing the conditions in their areas would support it. Marijuana could easily become America’s next big cash crop.
4. Dispensaries Proliferate Exponentially
Not only would growers come out of the woodwork, so would dispensaries. Right now, dispensaries are limited by state law in terms of their volume. For example, Utah’s Beehive Farmacy operates locations in Salt Lake and Brigham City. There are currently just ten additional dispensaries in Utah.
Federal decriminalization would change that. States would begin licensing dispensaries the same way they license liquor stores. The more licenses, the more revenue. You would see cannabis dispensaries crop up like corporate pharmacy chains. Some of those corporate chains might even start selling cannabis themselves.
5. Marijuana Use Would Skyrocket
Take away the federal regulations against cannabis and you invite more people to use it. That is exactly what will happen. If Washington decriminalizes pot, marijuana use will skyrocket overnight. It is inevitable. You can see the evidence in those states that currently allow medical use.
Some may see this as a good thing. And perhaps it is. But others see unfettered marijuana use along the same lines as lightly regulated alcohol consumption. We already have enough problems with drunk driving, teen alcohol use, and alcohol-fueled crimes. Is it possible that decriminalizing marijuana could lead to similar problems among its users? Anything is possible.
All eyes in the cannabis industry are now on Washington. It could be that Congress passes on the opportunity to take up marijuana legislation this year. But should they decide to deal with it before the next election cycle, there is a good chance they decriminalize marijuana across the board. At the very least, they are likely to reschedule it.