Via Marijuana Moment, my first thought after watching this was “Is Mooch high?” My second thought, after pondering it further, was “You know, I can sort of see it.”
Who’s the big obstacle in the Trump administration to marijuana legalization? It’s not POTUS, it’s his AG — and his AG isn’t going to be his AG for much longer after next week. Trump, in fact, has signaled surprising willingness to temper marijuana laws, first via his agreement with Cory Gardner to let state laws govern how the feds treat possession and later with his interest in a bill co-authored by Elizabeth Warren(!) to that end. With Trump behind Gardner and Warren, it’s possible that 60 votes are on the table in the Senate for a bill that would effectively legalize marijuana at the federal level in states where the drug is legal. And given the interest Democrats’ 2020 contenders have shown in outright national legalization, it’s possible that 60 votes would be on the table for that too — if Trump is onboard.
The big obstacle here has always been the House, where there may be enough conservatives from deep red districts who oppose legalization to block any bill from coming to the floor. Under the “Hastert Rule,” after all, the Speaker is supposed to kill any legislation that doesn’t have majority support within his own caucus. But … the House is on the verge of changing hands. Pelosi may be Speaker soon. If there’s a Democratic takeover next week, is legalization suddenly newly viable next year? Don’t forget, even Mr. Establishment John Boehner has come around on the virtues of legalization (in retirement, conveniently after he lost all of his legislative power to make it happen). With brand-name moderates like him and Gardner giving cover to centrist Republicans, a filibuster-proof bipartisan majority in the Senate isn’t unthinkable. Again, especially if Trump is behind them.
And it might be in his interest to be. Democrats will use the increasing popularity of legalization against him in 2020. He could short-circuit that by getting out in front of the issue. Any other Republican president might expect blowback from seniors and evangelicals for making a move like that, but Trump isn’t “any other Republican president.” The loyalty he inspires, especially among the second group, is overpowering. Only Nixon could go to China and maybe only President Law And Order could make the sale to conservative skeptics that legalization’s time has come. Plus, never forget: Trump loves to do “unprecedented” things as president. Half the reason he met with Kim Jong Un is because he was told repeatedly that none of his predecessors would have done so. And he loves flattering media coverage, however much he may whine about the “enemy of the people.” Getting behind legalization would stun his critics, earn him all sorts of media applause, and give us weeks’ worth of chatter about how his image of “strength” gave him the political capital needed to pull off one of the boldest social and criminal-justice reforms on the liberal/libertarian agenda. It’d be mind-boggling. Pitch it to him that way and he’d probably be ready to sign a bill before the pitch was over.
Above all else, there are destined to be some “deals” between him and Pelosi over the next two years. If Democrats are willing to play ball with him on a measure that’ll boost his popularity before the 2020 campaign begins, why not do it?
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