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GOP Congressman Predicts Florida Voters Will Approve Marijuana Legalization, But Doubts Congress Will Advance Cannabis Banking By November

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A GOP congressman is predicting that Florida voters will pass a marijuana legalization initiative this November—but he’s less confident Congress will get around to advancing a cannabis banking bill by that time.

Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, spoke about a variety of marijuana policy issues during an interview with The Dales Report, a recording of which was shared exclusively with Marijuana Moment.

The congressman said the Florida legalization measure “will pass” come Election Day, adding that the state is “at the forefront of freedom” and could create a market that serves as a “model for a lot of other states.”

Recent polling on the Florida cannabis initiative has been mixed. While surveys have consistently found majority support for the reform, several have showed it coming up short of the required 60 percent threshold for passage. That said, a poll from Fox News that was released last week found the measure comfortably ahead at 66 percent support.

Mast said that Florida enacting legalization would add more pressure on Congress to address the state-federal marijuana policy gap.

“Every state that does that, it’s another case here federally to say, ‘Listen, you need to deal with [cannabis] banking, you need to deal with descheduling, you need to deal with states rights and put it down in the appropriate hands,” the congressman said during the April meeting in his office in Washington, D.C., with The Dales Report staff and cannabis reform advocates.

“There have been people elected in for simply [supporting] cannabis as an issue that probably would not have been elected otherwise, because that’s where the electorate is at,” he said.

In any case, Mast doesn’t anticipate that Congress will pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act by November. He said “there are individuals in the House that are holding up that,” but he also faulted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for not advancing that chamber’s version to the floor after it cleared committee last September.

“It’s something that cuts in multiple directions, cuts across party lines, Republican and Democrat. I just don’t see it as anything I’ve heard a lot of discussion about since early last year,” he said, adding that the reform has been placed “on the back-burner.”

However, the congressman was proven wrong in a separate prediction during the April interview. He projected at the time that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would not move to reschedule marijuana this year and that the result would be “the status quo.” The Justice Department formally proposed moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) the following month.

Mast also criticized the double standards of certain colleagues on cannabis policy issues, contrasting their calls for states’ rights over abortion with their opposition to extending those same rights to marijuana laws.

“How does any different standard apply when it comes to cannabis?” he said. “In my opinion, if you were saying it this way for the last year in this debate [around abortion], you should say it the same way for this.”

Mast did help secure one recent marijuana reform win, leading an amendment that was attached to a large-scale spending bill and passed by the House that would authorize U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations to military veterans.

He’s also the sponsor of a separate bill meant to protect the Second Amendment rights of people who use marijuana in legal states, allowing them to purchase and possess firearms that they’re currently prohibited from having under federal law.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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