Connect with us

Cannabis Now

Cannabis Now

Was Sen. McConnell’s Public Health ‘Moment’ Good for Cannabis Reform?

Mitch McConnell health


Was Sen. McConnell’s Public Health ‘Moment’ Good for Cannabis Reform?

The longest serving Republican Senator has been an opponent of federal marijuana legalization.

The extraterrestrials were finally going public, or so it seemed. After decades of rumors, speculation, theories and even eyewitness accounts of lizard people, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell managed to upstage the very presence of “little green men” with a scary—and very public—health crisis moment.

Just hours after a whistleblower went before Congress to testify that there were, in fact, “biological non-humans” in the possession of the US military, McConnell, who was set to give a briefing about a defense policy bill, glazed over in front of cameras, becoming speechless before the gather press corps for nearly 20 seconds before being escorted away by his colleagues.

Although the 81-year-old McConnell has said that he’s “fine” and plans to “serve his full term in the job they overwhelmingly elected me to do,” his next health crisis could be right around the corner. And that, as dark as it might sound, could bode well for cannabis reform as it attempts to gain momentum at the federal level.

On top of being inarguably the most conservative Congressional leader and the longest serving Republican senator, McConnell’s been fighting to criminalize drug users since the early 1980s. More than that, he’s a staunch opponent of cannabis legalization.

“Senator McConnell is strongly opposed to legalization of marijuana as Kentucky families deserve no less,” a spokesperson for McConnell’s Senate office said back in 2014. Nearly a decade later, Kentucky surpassed McConnell’s politics by legalizing cannabis for medicinal use. Even to this day, McConnell appears to treat the cannabis economy less than seriously. Despite years of Democratic efforts to pass the landmark—and industry-wide lifeline—cannabis banking bill (SAFE), McConnell has blocked it at every step, saying that he worries that throwing any support behind “pot banking” will make the US financial system “more sympathetic to illegal drugs.” Logic may not be his strong suit.

What makes McConnell’s constant opposition to cannabis legalization even stranger is the fact that he’s not totally against it. He was instrumental in getting the 2018 Farm Bill passed, which legalized industrial hemp production in the US for the first time since it was banned in 1937. This made cannabis advocates hopeful that the legislation meant that he was warming up to federally legalizing cannabis, but that hasn’t been the case. It was just an attempt to reinvigorate the American farmer, giving them a profitable cash crop, that was never to include the plant’s intoxicating cousin. The cannabis industry likes to believe that they’ve got his support in some cases, always hopeful that he’ll do the right thing and get behind cannabis banking (something hemp farmers need as well), but the self-proclaimed Grim Reaper of Capitol Hill won’t budge.

But what happens if—and when—McConnell is no longer in the US Senate?

McConnell doesn’t think he’s going anywhere soon. But that’s not up to him. There’s cause for concern with respect to his health. Even Republicans are worried about it becoming an issue, according to several published reports. But they’ve got his seat covered. If he falls ill or dies during his term, a new law requires Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to pick three candidates from the Republican Party, putting them on the ballot for a special election to determine who fills that seat. Had the law not been changed, Governor Beshear could have just selected a Democrat as his successor. And that would have opened Congress to a bunch of reforms, including cannabis.

There’s no mistaking McConnell’s power on the Hill. Even as Minority Leader, he has managed to thwart cannabis reform, no matter how much support Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) can seem to muster. Schumer went into his role as Majority Leader ready to end pot prohibition once and for all, but McConnell has been the Alpha. Without McConnell holding power, however, the tides could still turn in favor of pot reform. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking.

If his body holds up, McConnell isn’t up for re-election until 2026, which would mean maybe a decade before cannabis reform could potentially get the push needed for federal legalization. For now, McConnell is upholding “the Republican party of Ronald Reagan,” and that means more prohibition. So don’t hold your breath. And if you do, make sure it’s a big ole hit of something good.

More in Legal

To Top