Connect with us


Analysis: How This Week’s Marijuana Banking Vote Changed From Earlier 2019 House Action



In a clear sign of the bipartisan support that marijuana reform enjoys in this Congress, more than half of Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic caucus in voting for of a bill on Monday to protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses.

This is the fourth time that the chamber has cleared the proposal in some form since 2019. But as lawmakers move to enact broader legalization, this week’s vote serves as another signal that interest in changing federal marijuana laws—even if that’s through a more modest vehicle—is growing within Congress.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is the chief sponsor of the the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which cleared the body in a 321-101 vote, including 106 GOP members. He said following its passage that he was “thrilled to see overwhelming support once again” for “bipartisan, commonsense legislation.”

Here’s an analysis on the latest House vote on the SAFE Banking Act:

Five members who voted on the bill the last time it was on the floor as standalone legislation changed their vote from “nay” to “yea,” compared to three who opposed the measure this round after supporting it in 2019.

“Nay” to “Yea” flips

  • Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)
  • Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA)
  • Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI)
  • Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD)
  • Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN)

“Yea” to “Nay” flips

  • Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)
  • Rep. Charles Fleishmann (R-TN)
  • Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX)

Significantly more freshmen members of the House who didn’t have the chance to vote on the SAFE Banking Act three years ago voted in favor of the bill this week (46) compared those new lawmakers who voted against it (18). Among those freshman “yea” votes were 30 Republicans—another example of how the issue’s bipartisan nature seems to increase on a generational basis. As more younger members come into Congress, it stands to reason that support for marijuana reform across the board will continue to increase.

Eighteen former members of Congress who voted against the bill in 2019 have since left Congress. By contrast, 49 lawmakers who approved the legislation that year have since retired, lost their reelection bids or passed away. Four additional members who are still in Congress and voted “yea” last time did not participate in this year’s vote.

There were 53 legislators who voted against the proposal who represent states that either have adult-use marijuana markets or comprehensive medical cannabis programs. All of those members who effectively said that businesses run by constituents in their states don’t deserve access to bank accounts are Republicans. (The following analysis doesn’t include those states that have only limited or CBD-only programs.)

GOP members who voted “no” representing legal states:

  • Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)
  • Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
  • Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
  • Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ)
  • Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)
  • Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)
  • Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)
  • Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA)
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
  • Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO)
  • Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
  • Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
  • Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
  • Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL)
  • Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL)
  • Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL)
  • Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL)
  • Rep. Scott Franklin (R-FL)
  • Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL)
  • Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL)
  • Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
  • Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA)
  • Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA)
  • Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA)
  • Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)
  • Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)
  • Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI)
  • Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI)
  • Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI)
  • Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-MN)
  • Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)
  • Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
  • Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO)
  • Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO)
  • Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
  • Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS)
  • Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS)
  • Rep. Matthew Rosendale (R-MT)
  • Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
  • Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM)
  • Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)
  • Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH)
  • Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
  • Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH)
  • Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)
  • Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK)
  • Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)
  • Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-OR)
  • Rep. John Joyce (R-PA)
  • Rep. Chris Steward (R-UT)
  • Rep. Robert Whittman (R-VA)
  • Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA)
  • Rep. Bob Good (R-VA)

In 2019, there were 41 GOP members who opposed the SAFE Banking Act despite representing states with businesses and constituents who could benefit from the reform. The higher number this year isn’t a product of waning support as much as it is a reflection of how the successful legalization movement has continued to spread to more states.

But while it’s clear that the legislation is largely non-controversial this session, there are some political dynamics at play within the legalization movement that could affect whether the standalone legislation advances through the Senate and makes it to the president’s desk.

(For analysis on how the 2019 vote compared to 2014, when the House voted on a similar but more limited appropriations amendment aimed at preventing the Treasury Department from penalizing banks that service cannabis businesses, read more here).

A companion version of the bill was refiled in the Senate days after the House reintroduced it, and its sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said Congress can “start with the SAFE Banking Act” before enacting more comprehensive reform.

That said, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told Marijuana Moment on Monday that he’s concerned that passing the banking legislation first could undermine support for broader legislation that he’s working on to end federal cannabis prohibition. Instead, he reasoned, the protections for financial institutions should be incorporated into a federal legalization bill.

In any case, the banking vote in the House was a hot topic among lawmakers this week, with numerous members discussing the action on social media.

Biden Press Secretary Misstates Marijuana Rescheduling’s Impact For Federal Prisoners Who Want Clemency

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.


Illinois Will ‘Blow Past’ $1 Billion In Legal Marijuana Sales In 2021, Chamber Of Commerce President Says



“Are we going to get to a billion dollars? I think we’re going to blow past the billion dollars based on the experience in smaller states,” the Chamber leader said.

By Elyse Kelly, The Center Square

Illinois’s cannabis industry is growing up fast, with adult-use recreational cannabis sales expected to hit $1 billion by year-end.

In March alone, Illinoisans spent $110 million on recreational marijuana.

Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said one factor contributing to Illinois’ explosive growth is that most neighboring states haven’t legalized marijuana yet.

“What we saw early on in states like Washington and Colorado is they did have demand come in from surrounding states, which frankly benefits our industry and benefits the taxes collected,” Maisch said.

Cannabis sales have already surpassed alcohol’s tax revenues for the state, and Maisch said he thinks $1 billion estimates are conservative.

“Are we going to get to a billion dollars? I think we’re going to blow past the billion dollars based on the experience in smaller states,” Maisch said.

There are only a couple of things that could stop Illinois’ explosive cannabis market growth, Maisch said. He said that policymakers could ruin things by pushing taxes too high as evidenced by the tobacco market.

“As taxes have gone up and up and up, they’ve pushed people all the way into the black market or they’ve created this grey market in which people are ostensibly paying some of the taxes, but they’re still getting sources of tobacco products that avoid much of the tax,” Maisch said.

The other thing that could head off continued growth is other states opening up recreational-use markets.

“So if you start to see surrounding states go to recreational, that’s definitely going to flatten the curve because we’re not going to be pulling in demand from other states,” Maisch said.

Maisch points out some concerns that accompany the explosion of Illinois’s recreational cannabis market including workforce preparedness.

“All of those individuals who are deciding to go ahead and consume this product are really taking themselves out of a lot of job opportunities that they would otherwise be qualified, so there’s a real upside and a downside,” Maisch said.

While it’s easy to track the revenues this industry brings into state coffers, he points out, it will be harder to track the lack of productivity and qualified individuals to operate heavy machinery and other jobs that require employees to pass a drug test.

This story was first published by The Center Square.

DEA Finally Ready To End Federal Marijuana Research Monopoly, Agency Notifies Grower Applicants

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading


DEA Finally Ready To End Federal Marijuana Research Monopoly, Agency Notifies Grower Applicants



The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Friday notified several companies that it is moving toward approving their applications to become federally authorized marijuana manufacturers for research purposes.

This is a significant development—and one of the first cannabis-related moves to come out of the Biden administration. There is currently a monopoly on federal cannabis cultivation, with the University of Mississippi having operated the only approved facility for the past half-century.

It was almost five years ago that DEA under President Barack Obama first announced that it was accepting applications for additional manufacturers. No approvals were made during the Trump administration. And the delay in getting acceptances has led to frustration—and in some cases, lawsuits—among applicants.

But on Friday, organizations including the Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC), Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) and Groff NA Hemplex LLC were notified by the agency that their requests were conditionally accepted.

“DEA is nearing the end of its review of certain marijuana grower applications, thereby allowing it to soon register additional entities authorized to produce marijuana for research purposes,” DEA said. “Pending final approval, DEA has determined, based on currently available information, that a number of manufacturers’ applications to cultivate marijuana for research needs in the United States appears to be consistent with applicable legal standards and relevant laws. DEA has, therefore, provided a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to these manufacturers as the next step in the approval process.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the move, and it’s unclear just how many organizations have received a DEA communication so far.

Matt Zorn, who has represented SRI in a suit against DEA over the processing delays, told Marijuana Moment that the agency explained that it is “moving forward” with the facility’s application and that it appears to be “consistent with public interest” to give the institute the ability to grow marijuana for study purposes.

SRI’s Dr. Sue Sisley is in a process of completing a memorandum of agreement that DEA requested “so that it can be executed and official,” according to a press release.

BRC CEO George Hodgin said in another press release that after being finalized, “this federal license will forever change the trajectory of our business and the medicinal cannabis industry.”

“The DEA’s leadership will set off a nationwide wave of innovative cannabis-derived treatments, unlock valuable intellectual property and create high quality American jobs,” he said. “The BRC team is already familiar with DEA compliance procedures based on our extensive history of controlled substances activity, and our world class staff is ready to hit the ground running on this new business arm that the DEA has authorized.”

DEA said it has presented applicants that appear to meet legal requirements “with an MOA outlining the means by which the applicant and DEA will work together to facilitate the production, storage, packaging, and distribution of marijuana under the new regulations as well as other applicable legal standards and relevant laws.”

“To the extent these MOAs are finalized, DEA anticipates issuing DEA registrations to these manufacturers,” the agency said. “Each applicant will then be authorized to cultivate marijuana—up to its allotted quota—in support of the more than 575 DEA-licensed researchers across the nation.”

DEA said it “will continue to prioritize efforts to evaluate the remaining applications for registration and expects additional approvals in the future” and will publicly post information about approvals as they are finalized.

Following a 2019 suit against DEA by SRI, a court mandated that the agency take steps to process the cultivation license applications, and that legal challenge was dropped after DEA provided a status update.

That suit argued that the marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi is of poor quality, does not reflect the diversity of products available on the commercial market and is therefore inadequate for clinical studies.

That’s also a point that several policymakers have made, and it’s bolstered by research demonstrating that the federal government’s cannabis is genetically closer to hemp than marijuana that consumers can obtain in state-legal markets.

Last year, DEA finally unveiled a revised rule change proposal that it said was necessary to move forward with licensing approvals due to the high volume of applicants and to address potential complications related to international treaties to which the U.S. is a party.

SRI filed another suit against DEA in March, claiming that the agency used a “secret” document to justify its delay of approving manufacturer applications. And that was born out when the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel document was released last year as part of a settlement in the case, revealing, among other things, that the agency feels that its current licensing structure for cannabis cultivation has been in violation of international treaties for decades.

Mississippi Supreme Court Overturns Medical Marijuana Legalization Ballot That Voters Approved

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading


Mississippi Supreme Court Overturns Medical Marijuana Legalization Ballot That Voters Approved



A voter-approved initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi has been overturned by the state Supreme Court.

On Friday, the court ruled in favor of a Mississippi mayor who filed a legal challenge against the 2020 measure, nullifying its certification by the Secretary of State. The lawsuit was unrelated to the merits of the reform proposal itself, but plaintiffs argued that the constitutional amendment violated procedural rules for placing measures on the ballot.

While the court acknowledged that a “strong, if not overwhelming, majority of voters of Mississippi approved Initiative 65” to legalize medical cannabis in the state, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler’s (R) petition was valid for statutory reasons.

Madison’s challenge cites a state law stipulating that “signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot.” But that policy went into effect when Mississippi had five congressional districts, and that’s since been reduced to four, making it mathematically impossible to adhere to.

The secretary of state and other officials pushed back against the lawsuit and argued that a plain reading of the state Constitution makes it clear that the intention of the district-based requirement was to ensure that signatures were collected in a geographically dispersed manner—and the result of the campaign met that standard.

But in the court’s 6-3 ruling released on Friday, the justices said that their hands were tied. The legislature or administration might be able to fix the procedural ballot issue, but it had to follow the letter of the law.

“We find ourselves presented with the question squarely before us and nowhere to turn but to its answer,” the decision states. “Remaining mindful of both the November 3, 2020 election results and the clear language in section 273 seeking to preserve the right of the people to enact changes to their Constitution, we nonetheless must hold that the text of section 273 fails to account for the possibility that has become reality in Mississippi.”

In sum, a Census-driven change in the number of congressional districts in Mississippi “did, indeed, break section 273 so that, absent amendment, it no longer functions,” meaning there’s no legal way to pass a constitutional ballot initiative in the state.

“Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress. To work in today’s reality, it will need amending—something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”

“We grant the petition, reverse the Secretary of State’s certification of Initiative 65, and hold that any subsequent proceedings on it are void,” the court ruled.

One justice who dissented said that the district-based requirement is arbitrary as it concerns Mississippi elections. While the federal government defines the state as having four congressional districts, the state Constitution “lays out the five districts,” and “there have been zero changes to the five districts” as far as the state’s laws are concerned.

In any case, this marks a major defeat for cannabis reform activists in the state who collected more than 214,000 signatures for their initiative. Sixty-eight percent of voters approved a general ballot question on whether to allow medical cannabis, and 74 percent signed off on advocates’ specific measure in a separate question.

“The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi,” Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a press release. “Patients will now continue the suffering that so many Mississippians voted to end. The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right.”

“It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter,” he said.

Under the voter-approved initiative, patients with debilitating medical issues would have been allowed to legally obtain marijuana after getting a doctor’s recommendation. The proposal included 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and patients would have been able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.

There was an attempt in the legislature to pass a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the event that the court overruled the voter-approved initiative, but it failed to be enacted by the session’s end.

The Mississippi State Department of Health told WJTV that it will cease work on developing medical cannabis regulations in light of the court ruling.

“However, the agency has certainly learned a lot in the process of putting together a successful medical marijuana program, and we stand ready to help the legislature if it creates a statutory program,” Liz Sharlot, director of the Office of Communications for the department, said.

This is the latest state Supreme Court setback to affect cannabis reform efforts.

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court dealt a critical blow to marijuana activists working to legalize marijuana in the state—killing an initiative that hundreds of thousands of voters have already signed and forcing them to start all over again if they want to make the 2022 ballot.

While a Nebraska campaign collected enough signatures to qualify a reform initiative in 2020, the state Supreme Court shut it down following a legal challenge. It determined that the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule, much to the disappointment of advocates.

In South Dakota, the fate of an adult-use legalization initiative that voters approved last November is also in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court, where a sheriff is challenging its constitutionality based on a single subject rule as well.

Opponents to a Montana marijuana legalization measure that was approved by voters have also filed lawsuits contesting the voter-approved initiative for procedural reasons, arguing that its allocation of revenue violates the state Constitution. While the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case last year, it did not rule on the merits and left the door open to pursuing the case in district and appeals court, which plaintiffs then pursued.

Read the Mississippi Supreme Court ruling on the medical cannabis initiative below: 

Mississippi Supreme Court m… by Marijuana Moment

Congressional Bill Filed To Protect Marijuana Consumers From Losing Public Housing

Photo elements courtesy of rawpixel and Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Marijuana Moment