A GOP senator said on Monday that he hopes a House-passed bill to protect banks that service marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators advances to the president’s desk.
That may come as a surprise to some, however, as Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has so far declined to cosponsor the legislation, which is pending action in the Senate Banking Committee.
While Blunt is no fan of cannabis, he told KOLR 10 that he supports the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act because the alternative—forcing marijuana companies to operate on a largely cash-only basis—is a public safety risk.
“You’re just asking for more problems, in an industry frankly that I think really drifts toward problems anyway, but if you make it all cash, you’ve highly increased the bad things that can happen,” he said.
That sentiment is partly why the bill cleared the House of Representatives in September, with significant bipartisan support. But while members of both parties have expressed concerns about maintaining the status quo, just five of the 33 cosponsors of the Senate companion version are Republicans.
Blunt is not among those cosponsors, raising questions about the extent to which he’s willing to support an effort to fix the problem he identified.
That the senator’s name is missing from that list of supporters is largely consistent with his legislative record, however. With respect of cannabis reform legislation, Blunt has only proactively attached himself to legislation that would remove CBD from the list of federally controlled substances.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Blunt voted against a 2016 amendment to shield banks that work with cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal agencies.
That said, he did support a separate amendment before the panel the same year to prevent the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere with state medical cannabis programs. He also voted in favor of committee amendments to spending legislation in 2016 and 2017 that would have allowed doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana in states where it’s legal, a proposal he previously opposed in 2015.
In this latest interview, Blunt didn’t weigh in on the specifics of the SAFE Banking Act, but the chair of the Banking Committee, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), said earlier this month that he’s opposed to the bill as passed in the House. Crapo said he wants to amend the legislation, and has floated potential changes such as a provision making only marijuana businesses that sell products with a 2 percent or less THC content eligible for financial services.
Blunt also told the local TV station that he’s concerned about oversupply in the hemp industry, which was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.
“So many states and the federal government has made hemp legal, and then there’s really more supply than there is demand,” he said.
Blunt isn’t alone the only senator in his party to voice support for cannabis reform without following up with legislative action. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said in an interview in April that Congress should pass the marijuana banking bill—but like Blunt, he hasn’t cosponsored the legislation. And Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) has repeatedly stressed the need to reform federal laws as it concerns medical cannabis, yet he’s similarly declined to sponsor or cosponsor any such bills to accomplish that goal.