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Canna-count the Votes



Lost amid all the talk of a looming red or blue wave coming on Election Day, depending on who you ask on what particular day, is the likelihood that a green wave will continue to sweep over the country.

A total of 30 states across the country have already legalized or decriminalized cannabis for medical use, with another nine having approved the drug for adult recreational use. Polls indicate those numbers are about to grow.

In Michigan, voters will decide Proposal 1, which would legalize possession and cultivation for personal use by those 21 and older. Polling indicates 62 percent of registered voters — including a stunning 92 percent of those ages 18 to 29 — plan to vote for the measure.

In North Dakota, which boasts the sixth highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the nation, according to FBI data, voters are poised to vote on Measure 3, which would legalize adult use and possession and expunge most prior cannabis-related convictions. Polling in the Roughrider State has been mixed.

Voters in Missouri and Utah, meanwhile, will decide whether to legalize medical marijuana, with more than 60 percent of voters supporting the measures in both states, according to polling data reported by The Hill.

All told, come Nov. 7, cannabis could be legal in some form in 43 of the nation's 50 states. But some marijuana advocates have their eyes on a different prize entirely.

Despite the massive and — at this point — prolonged upswell in public support for putting an end to federal cannabis prohibition (a recent Gallup poll puts the number at 64 percent), bills to that end have faired poorly in Congress. That's largely because Republican leadership has refused to give them a hearing.

House Judiciary Chair Robert Goodlatte (R-Virginia) and Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) have publicly said that they've blocked dozens of cannabis bills from leaving their powerful committees, essentially resigning them to a slow and quiet death. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) has blocked House floor votes on more than three dozen cannabis bills and amendments. For two consecutive years, GOP leaders have also used the budget reconciliation process to gut provisions that would have given military veterans access to medical cannabis in states that allow it.

Goodlatte isn't seeking re-election, Sessions is facing a tough challenge and Grassley isn't up for a vote again until 2022. But the larger question is whether Democrats can flip control of the House and the Senate, allowing them to put their own party members in charge of these powerful committees that control what bills are heard. It's worth noting here that Democratic leadership has grown increasingly outspoken on the issue, with the national party having added federal legalization to its platform back in 2016 and a handful of its 2020 hopefuls endorsing the idea.

So what are the chances that the green wave crashes down on Congress next year? The polling aggregator www.fivethirtyeight.com says Democrats have an 85 percent chance of flipping the House and a 19 percent chance in the Senate.

It's hard to predict what a split Congress would mean for cannabis.

California Republican Congressmember Dana Rohrabacher made headlines last week when he told Fox Business that the Trump administration has made a "solid commitment" to reforming cannabis legislation in the United States after the midterms.

Forgetting for a second that the president also "committed" to making Mexico pay for a border wall, releasing his tax returns after the 2016 election and not taking vacations while in office, it's also fair to wonder how much control he has over GOP leaders. The STATES Act, which was introduced in June and would essentially defer to state laws on cannabis, has bipartisan support and Trump's endorsement, yet has not seen a single Congressional hearing. There's also the fact that Rohrabacher himself might be looking for a new job come 2019 as he is currently in a dead-heat to retain his House seat.

This is all to say that those hoping to see the green wave that's already swept up 78 percent of the United States — and that has the support of 64 percent of the country — break over the federal government might want to start donating to Democratic Senate candidates. That or bank on the administration's "solid commitment."

Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.

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