However, as is typically the case in Congress, elected representatives of both political stripes have been using SAFE as a political football, as detailed in a new Leafly article.
On one side of the aisle, 101 Republicans voted against SAFE in the House. SAFE does nothing more than facilitate banking services for (legal) cannabis companies in states that have authorized legal cannabis.
Do these Republicans not support States’ rights?
Currently, these legal cannabis companies are forced to operate on a cash-only basis. Cash-based transactions have been discouraged in other industries because they facilitate the presence of Organized Crime.
Do these Republicans support Organized Crime?
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats have also sought to politicize this legislation. Instead of being satisfied with this important incremental step in the national legalization of cannabis in the United States, some Democrats are protesting that it’s not enough.
These Democrats (including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer) want everything to be included today in any federal legislation put to a vote.
“Congress should not enact banking reform alone and think the job is done,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Twitter last week. “We need decriminalization at the federal level, criminal justice reform, and investment in opportunity for minority & women-owned small businesses.”
This is the United States.
What happens if a political party does not control both the House and the Senate (and the White House), but attempts to push through legislation that represents a wish-list? Nothing gets done.
Some Democrats are prepared to make the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. a hostage in negotiations – while they attempt to score political points.
SAFE has moved to the Senate. Senate Republicans are now in the spotlight. Will they behave any better than the House Republicans and the prominent Democrats that have already tried to jeopardize this bill for partisan purposes?
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has famously dubbed himself “the Grim Reaper”. He has vowed to prevent any Democrat-sponsored bill from ever reaching a vote. Other Senate Republicans may also decide to stand against SAFE for political reasons alone.
Anticipating this, the House added a key amendment to SAFE that broadens the bill to fully include legal cannabis and legal hemp businesses.
Mitch McConnell has always been strongly opposed publicly to any legislation which furthers “marijuana” legalization. But Mitch McConnell supports legalized hemp and the hemp industry in his home state.
Will this House amendment be the proverbial 'spoonful of sugar' necessary to get the Grim Reaper to swallow this medicine that is badly needed by the legal cannabis industry? Or, will McConnell make this even more nakedly political – and block SAFE even though it also advances the legal hemp industry?
Despite positive signals by Sen. Crapo of Idaho and a small group of Republicans, including Sens. Rand Paul (KY) and Lisa Murkowski (AK), there is skepticism about whether the Senate’s GOP leaders would even let the bill come to a vote. In July, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing on the challenges of cannabis banking. Crapo, the committee chair, was the only Republican senator in attendance.
The United States federal government has been playing politics with cannabis for more than 80 years. Indeed, the cannabis Prohibition it imposed is the underlying cause behind the current vaping health issue that has hospitalized hundreds of Americans and resulted in eight fatalities (to date).
Playing politics with cannabis legalization is playing politics with the lives of Americans. It always has been. How many Americans have died unnecessarily because they were deprived of the many potent medicinal/health benefits of the cannabis plant?
It’s time the federal government stopped playing politics with cannabis. It’s a naïve hope. But, occasionally, Washington surprises Americans by doing what’s right rather than doing what’s easy.
As SAFE moves to the Senate, the U.S. cannabis industry and cannabis investors are hoping that this is one of those rare occasions.