Congress Fails to Help States Make It Easier for Marijuana Businesses to Bank.
The annual Defense Department policy bill, which was released by Congress late on Tuesday, did not include any changes to loosen federal laws on marijuana, which upset supporters. That means there aren’t many ways for Congress to pass marijuana laws that would help states where the drug is legal before the end of the year.
As one of the last must-pass bills Congress would look at while Democrats still controlled both chambers, supporters of legalizing marijuana could try to attach two bills to the defense bill.
One could make it clear that banks that lend money to legal marijuana businesses in states where it is legal do not break federal law. The other would give money from the federal government to help states clear the records of people who were convicted of crimes before the substance was legalized in the state.
Even though most of the defense bill is about giving the Pentagon permission to do things, it is often also full of other policy measures. But neither marijuana proposal was in the 4,400 pages of text for the 2022 bill that came out Tuesday night.
With less than two weeks left in the session, the only way to pass it is either as part of a year-end spending bill or on its own, said Morgan Fox, the political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Fox said on Wednesday, “I’m glad we still have other choices.” “It’s kind of a bummer.”
A vote on a separate marijuana bill is not likely this year, since the Senate is only meeting for a few days and has a long list of other things to do, such as passing a bill to fund the government for the next year and a bill to clarify election laws.
21 States Don’t Agree with How the Federal Government Handles Marijuana.
Even Though Marijuana Is on The Federal Government’s List of The Most Restricted Controlled Substances, 21 States Have Made It Legal for People to Use It for Recreational Purposes.
This Difference in Policy Makes It Hard for Businesses that Are Legal in Their Own States to Do Things Like Banking, Where Some Banks Refuse to Work with The Marijuana Industry out Of Fear of Breaking Federal Law.
The Banking Bill, Which Was Proposed by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado Who Is Leaving Office at The End of The Year, Would Make It Clear that Federal Regulators Can’t Punish Banks for Doing Business with Marijuana Stores that Are Legal in Their States.
Since It Was First Brought up In 2019, the House Has Passed the Banking Bill Seven Times, but The Senate Has Never Done So.
When Republicans Take Over the House Next Year, the Streak Could Be in Danger. Even Though the Bill Had Support from Both Parties and Was Passed by A Vote of 321-101 Last Year, It May Not Pass Next Year if Ohio Republican Jim Jordan Becomes Chairman of The House Judiciary Committee as Expected. Jordan Has Always Voted Against Efforts to Legalize Marijuana, Including the Banking Bill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Who Wants Marijuana Laws to Be Less Strict, Told Reporters on Tuesday, Before the Text of The Defense Bill Was Released, that He Was Working to Get the Banking Bill Passed.
Schumer Said, “it’s a Top Priority for Me.” “I’d Like to Get It Done. We’ll Try to Talk About How To Do It Best.”
Read More: Why Marijuana Users in Missouri Will Still Require a Card to Purchase Dec 8.!
Senate Minority Leader Mitch Mc Connell, a Republican from Kentucky, Was Against Putting Marijuana Provisions in The Defense Bill. He said that The Banking Bill Was an Example of Something that Did Not Belong There.
He said, “we’re Talking About a Bunch of Different Pet Projects, Like Making Our Financial System More Friendly to Illegal Drugs.” “The Democrats Had Two Years to Move These Controversial Issues Across the Floor if They Wanted Them so Much.”
The Bill Is Important to States Like Colorado, Where Marijuana Sales Started in 2014 and Reached $2.2 Billion Last Year.
In a Written Statement, Conor Cahill, a spokesman for Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Praised Perlmutter for His Work and Predicted that The Bill Would Pass This Year.
Cahill Wrote in An Email on Tuesday, “governor Polis Has Been Pushing for The Safe Banking Act for A Long Time and Has Asked Congress Many Times to Pass This Important Bill to Protect Cannabis-Related Businesses, Help Minority, Women, and Veteran-Owned Small Business Owners, Create Jobs, and Improve Public Safety in Colorado Communities and Across the States.” “we Hope and Expect that By the End of The Lame-Duck Session, His Ten-Year Effort Will Have Been Completed.”
Members of Both Parties in States Where the Recreational Use of Marijuana Is Legal Have Kept Calling for The Bill to Pass.
In an Email Sent Wednesday, a Spokesman for Montana Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines Said, “the Senator Is Still Working Every Day to Build Consensus so We Can Pass “safe Banking” Into Law This Year.”
A Spokesperson for Daines’ Democratic Counterpart, Jon Tester, Also Said that He “would Like to See It Pass This Congress.”
Read More: Legislators in Ohio Hear Testimony on A Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Use.!
The Bill Has 42 Supporters, Including Daines and Tester.
This Congress, Schumer Didn’t Bring the Banking Bill to The Floor Because He Wanted to Pass a Broader Federal Legalization Bill that He and Fellow Senate Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon Had Proposed.
Booker said in A Statement Last Year, “the Safe Banking Act Is a Common-Sense Policy that I Support, but It Needs to Be Paired with Strong Restorative Justice Provisions that Try to Fix the Many Wrongs Done to Black and Brown Communities as A Result of Our Country’s Failed War on Drugs.”
Wednesday, Booker’s Spokesperson Did Not Respond to A Message Asking for Comment.
Fox said that Schumer’s Support Would Be Important for Passage, but That Giving More Weight to A Broader Bill May Have Hurt Its Chances This Year.
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“i Think It Was Very Important to Have the Support of The Senate Leadership,” Fox said. “I Wish They Had Started on This Earlier in The Session Instead of Waiting until After the Schumer-Booker-Wyden Bill Was Introduced.”
Advocates Hoped that Putting the Bipartisan Banking Measure Together with A Bill to Give $20 Million in Grants to Help States Process Expungements Into a Bill for The End of The Year Would Be Enough Since the More Comprehensive Measure Was Stuck.
This Year, Ohio Republican David Joyce Brought that Bipartisan Bill to The U.S. House. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, Don Young, a Republican from Alaska Who Died in 2016, Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, David Trone, a Democrat from Maryland, and Perlmutter were all cosponsors.