Forcing marijuana businesses to operate on a largely cash-only basis is “a real threat,” anti-legalization Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) acknowledged in a recent interview. But the Senate should first hold a hearing on the “public health consequences” of ending cannabis prohibition before advancing legislation to resolve the financial services problem, he said.
Speaking at a Hudson Institute event on combating transnational crime last month, Cornyn first talked generally about conflicting state and federal marijuana laws and expressed concerns about THC potency in products available in state-legal markets.
“I think the mixed messages that we’re seeing as a result of the federal prohibition on marijuana possession, sales and transportation, and then the lack of enforcement at the state level because of initiatives taking place in those states that broaden the use from, let’s say, medical marijuana—whatever that is—to recreational, to other types of things. I think, you know, young people could understandably be confused about that,” he said.
The senator said he wants to hold a hearing before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, which he co-chairs, on the health impacts of legalization and specifically high-THC concentration products.
“It’s a new ballgame, with higher concentrations of the drugs, the challenges that brings to public safety, to individual mental health and also the consequences of being a gateway to some of these other drugs, certainly interacting with criminal organizations that peddle illegal drugs,” he said.
John Walters, the former White House drug czar and current chief operating officer of the Hudson Institute who led the discussion with Cornyn, brought up banking as an issue that could affect “the domestic expansion of marijuana.” He asked the senator what he thought of the prospects of passing a bill to fix the problem.
Cornyn said he recently spoke with Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID), whose panel held a hearing on marijuana banking last month, and that he was aware of testimony outlining the issues posed by the current situation.
“There’s huge cash. And obviously, the danger of that from a corruption standpoint or just a public safety standpoint, that’s a real threat,” he said. “They’re actually beginning to explore whether there ought to be some sort of carve-out or some sort of accommodation made where the proceeds of this, quote, ‘legal’ business at the state level can somehow enter the banking system.”
Crapo “was expressing to me that that’s no easy task,” Cornyn said, adding that he told the chair about his desire to hold a separate hearing on the impact of legalization before proceeding with a banking fix.
“Let’s have this hearing on the public safety consequences so people can go into this with their eyes open,” the senator said.
Photo courtesy of YouTube/Hudson Institute.