Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) says that ongoing marijuana banking issues under prohibition amount to a “cannabis crisis,” and while he thinks there’s still a shot to enact reform with Republicans in control of the House, he’s underscoring the challenges of the new political dynamic on Capitol Hill.
Advocates and stakeholders remain frustrated that Congress was unable to pass a marijuana banking bill and other modest reforms last session when Democrats held majorities in both chambers. But eyes are now turned to what’s achievable in the 118th Congress.
Booker told NJ.com that it’s his “intention to try to drive it as far as we can go, but the dynamics have shifted pretty dramatically” with the House flip. He said enacting reform is “definitely going to be harder, but not impossible.”
“I do think there’s a chance. Remember there’s always been a good bipartisan coalition of people that want to do something,” the senator said. “The urgencies that pushed us towards some kind of partnership are still there, on the business side as well as the restorative justice side.”
Booker has faced particular criticism from certain stakeholders over how his position on banking legislation has evolved, with the senator at one point vowing to block any efforts to advance a standalone Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act without equity components but eventually expressing interest in compromise to get something done.
He remains committed to incorporating equity into legislation he plans to work on this session, but the task is steeper without Democratic control of the House.
The senator said in an earlier interview following last year’s election that he believed it could take “many years from now” to pass cannabis legislation if Democrats didn’t get the job done during the lame duck session.
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who led negotiations over the so-called SAFE Plus package, has faulted Republicans for keeping the proposal out of key legislation that he’d hoped to attach it to last session.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), who now serves as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said last month that while he still opposes the banking proposal, he wouldn’t stand in its way.
The White House was asked last week where President Joe Biden stands on marijuana banking reform, and Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the ball is in Congress’s court, with no current plans for administrative action to resolve the issue.
Biden hasn’t provided a clear policy position on marijuana banking, though he’s said that states should be able to decide their own cannabis laws without federal interference. His administration has also become more vocal marijuana reform since the president issued a mass cannabis possession pardon in October.