Republican senators, including the lead GOP sponsor of a bipartisan marijuana banking bill, will soon be introducing new legislation to prevent marijuana from being federally legalized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) without congressional approval.
The yet-to-be-released bill is being led by Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Steve Daines (R-MT), who is also sponsoring the newly revised Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Act that’s set for a Senate Banking Committee markup next week.
The offices of both Lummis and Daines sent out press releases on Wednesday and Thursday emphasizing that the senators do “not support making cannabis legal federally.”
“In the coming days Lummis and Daines will be introducing legislation to ensure marijuana cannot be legalized federally by the FDA without Congressional approval,” it says.
Lummis’s announcement also includes an additional line stating that they “both oppose the legalization of marijuana and believe it is an issue that should be decided at the state level.”
This comes a week after 14 House and Senate Republicans sent a letter to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), imploring the agency to “reject” a recent marijuana rescheduling recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and keep cannabis in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Neither Daines nor Lummis were listed as signatories on that letter, however.
It’s unclear by what mechanism the senators’ bill would prevent FDA from legalizing cannabis, or if it would include a prohibition on reclassifying marijuana to any category other than Schedule I without congressional sign-off. The term “legalization” is commonly understood to mean descheduling—or removing marijuana from the CSA altogether.
FDA has approved a cannabis-derived CBD medication and a synthetic THC drug, but the agency generally does not approve holistic or plant-based medicines. If marijuana was rescheduled, as HHS has proposed following a scientific reviewed directed by President Joe Biden, it would remain federally illegal except for medical use with a prescription from a doctor.
Marijuana Moment reached out to both offices for additional details about the forthcoming bill that was briefly described. A spokesperson for Daines referred questions to Lummis’s office, as she is leading the legislation, but representatives there were not immediately available.
The announcement was included at the bottom of both statements on the SAFER Banking Act that was officially introduced on Wednesday. Daines touted provisions in the SAFER Banking Act that he helped secure during bipartisan negotiations that he says will protect all legal businesses “from the Left’s woke agenda.”
While the crux of the SAFER Banking Act is to give state-licensed cannabis businesses access to traditional financial services, Daines and Lummis touted parts of the bill that are meant to prevent federal regulators from taking discriminatory enforcement action against other industries such as the firearms trade.
The legislation “is about keeping our Montana communities safe and reducing the risk of crime but it’s also an important opportunity to ensure all legal businesses, including firearm manufacturers and energy producers, are protected from the Left’s woke agenda,” Daines said.
Lummis said that Wyoming energy companies “are threatened daily by woke [Environmental and Social Governance] initiatives that could cause these energy producers to lose access to bank accounts and loans.”
“The SAFER Banking Act prohibits federal bank regulators from ordering a bank or credit union to close an account based on reputation risk, which will protect energy companies and gun manufacturers from attacks from the left that threaten their business each day,” she said. “All legal businesses should have access to bank accounts, and this legislation ensures the federal government cannot pick winners and losers when it comes to providing access to financial services.”
Daines’s emphasis on the bill’s banking regulations provisions, and his sponsorship of the FDA and cannabis legalization legislation, may indicate that the senator is seeking to further distance himself from the broader marijuana reform movement—despite voters in his state approving adult-use legalization on the ballot in 2020.
In the meantime, senators such as Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) say they expect the SAFER Banking Act to move through committee with strong bipartisan support before it moves to the floor.
Schumer says he plans to attach amendments to facilitate state-level cannabis expungements and preserve gun rights for medical cannabis patients when it reached the floor. Daines’s office has previously said that he’s amenable to the expungements add.
Meanwhile, on the House side, A top Democrat reintroduced a bill to federally legalize, tax and regulate marijuana on Wednesday, with provisions to expunge prior cannabis convictions.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.