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Democratic Senator Who Voted Against Marijuana Banking Bill Voices Continued ‘Concern’ With Lack Of Criminal Justice Reform



A Democratic senator who voted against a marijuana banking bill in committee last year says he does support the reform but wants to ensure that communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition are not left behind if it’s enacted.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), the lone Democrat to oppose the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act when it was taken up by the Senate Banking Committee last September, weighed in on the legislation and recent administrative rescheduling announcement during an interview on MSNBC on Saturday.

Warnock appeared less critical of the measure than he did at the time of the committee markup, where he cast the protest vote because he said it did not adequately address the consequences of the war on drugs, while benefitting the cannabis industry. He sought to amend the bill, but his proposals were not ultimately adopted.

Even so, he said in the new interview that “I support the efforts to make it easier for folks who are engaged in cannabis research—for those who are involved in this emerging industry—to be able to participate.”

However, he said his “concern” is still rooted in the fact that “entire blocks and sections of cities all across our country have been hollowed out by the war on drugs.”

“And so my concern is that, as we move this SAFER Banking legislation closer to getting over the finish line, that we don’t leave these communities behind,” Warnock said. “It makes no sense that you literally have people locked up in our prisons and in our jails right now for things the last a couple of American presidents have admitted to doing.”

“Black communities have seen far more devastation from the enforcement of marijuana than the drug itself,” he said, adding that the Biden administration’s move to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule III drug “is a step in the right direction.”

“But a lot of this happens at the state level,” the senator said. “I think it’s important that the president has set a tone for this to happen, but there’s a lot more work to be done.”

It’s unclear whether Warnock would cast another protest vote if the SAFER Banking Act is taken up on the floor, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has repeatedly described as a priority. But the leader has also discussed his intent to add criminal justice reform provisions, including by attaching language from a bipartisan bill that would incentivize state-level cannabis expungements.

Meanwhile, the head of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said earlier this month that marijuana industry banking access would make the agency’s job easier, and officials “shouldn’t just sit on our hands” as the federal government moves to reschedule cannabis.

Also, a former GOP congressman said this month that he expects Republicans will be “more comfortable voting yes” for incremental marijuana reform measures like the banking access bill for the industry now that the administration is officially pursuing rescheduling.

Senate sources have indicated that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is again fighting against the SAFER Banking Act, however, raising questions about its path to passage despite the sizable bipartisan support it enjoys.

DOJ Seeks Input On ‘Unique Economic Impacts’ Of Marijuana Rescheduling For ‘Multibillion Dollar Industry’

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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