Mitch McConnell, Longtime Opponent of Marijuana Legalization, Stepping Down as Senate Minority Leader

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a longtime opponent of legalizing marijuana, announced today they he will step down as GOP leader in November.

(Photo credit: Getty Images).

In a speech on the Senate floor, McConnell said that he will continue to serve in Senate but will allow “the next generation of leadership” to lead the Senate and Republican Party. McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984. He became minority leader in 2007, and first became Majority Leader in 2014. He once again became minority leader in 2021 after Democrats took back control of the Senate.

Last week McConnell said “the end of my contributions are closer than I prefer”, hinting that this announcing could be coming. McConnell is currently 82 years old.

“As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work,” said McConnell. “A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. That day arrived today.”

Although McConnell was vital in passing a 2018 farm bill that legalized hemp nationwide, McConnell has been a longtime opponent of federal marijuana reform, and he’s a staunch opponent of descheduling or legalizing marijuana.

Despite this, McConnell stepping down is unlikely to be a celebratory announcement for marijuana reform advocates, given that all of the leading candidates to replace him also oppose legalizing marijuana.

Currently the top three contenders to replace McConnell as Senate Majority Leader are Senate Minority Whip John Thune (SD), Senator John Barrasso (WY), and former GOP Whip Senator John Cornyn (TX).

Although all three are opposed to legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use, it is possible that other candidates could enter the race in the coming days.

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