Connect with us

Politics

Congressman Slams Senate After Marijuana Banking Excluded From Defense Bill

Published

on

A new version of a congressional defense bill does not include marijuana banking reform following negotiations between the House and Senate. But the lead sponsor of the cannabis reform didn’t go down without a fight, filing an amendment in committee to attach the marijuana language to the legislation—though he ultimately didn’t insist on a vote.

While the House passed its initial version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in September with language to protect banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses, those provisions were not attached to a new bicameral deal filed on Tuesday.

This latest iteration will now go through both chambers again before potentially being sent to the president’s desk.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), chief sponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, didn’t force a vote on the amendment in the House Rules Committee—but its last-minute introduction sparked an impassioned debate within the panel, where multiple members expressed frustration over how Senate leadership has approached the issue.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) sharply criticized Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who has insisted that broad justice-focused marijuana reform should be addressed before passing something like the SAFE Banking Act.

“I don’t really quite know what the hell his problem is,” McGovernor said, referring to Schumer. “But what he’s doing is he’s making it very difficult for a lot of small businesses—and minority-owned businesses, too—deal with the issue of cannabis to be able to move forward and to expand and to hire more people.”

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who is a lead negotiator on NDAA, also expressed frustration over how Senate leadership has approached the cannabis banking issue.

“The impact of this, as a practical matter, to not have the SAFE Banking Act is incredibly dangerous,” he said, adding that small businesses “basically have to run a cash business” and they “can’t do the normal banking that is available to them in the states where where marijuana is legal.”

“I even seriously considered saying, you know, we’re just gonna put it in and the Senate can deal with it,” Smith said. “But the bottom line is, if the majority leader in the Senate has this opinion—and it’s worth noting that the minority leader has a similar position in the Senate—they don’t want this included, that’s not the way the process works.”

Smith and other lawmakers said that while they support the cannabis legislation, inserting it over the Senate’s objections could doom the overall defense bill, a scenario they weren’t willing to risk.

Perlmutter mused that “precisely why the majority leader, Mr. Schumer, is opposed to this is still pretty much a mystery to me.”

“It makes no sense because of the public safety aspect, the minority business aspect,” he said. “Without the ability to have banking, many small businesses—veteran-owned organizations, women-owned businesses—don’t have access to capital.”

“You have heard my ire and my irritation and my anger because people are getting killed. They’re getting robbed. And we’re making no moves,” he said. “We now have made some advancements, but this thing’s been sitting there for three years.”

Despite his frustration, Perlmutter said it’s not his intention to “start really throwing procedural wrenches into everything” to advance the reform, and so he didn’t push for a vote on the amendment in committee. That said, the congressman said he’s “not raising the white flag on this thing” and “we’re going to keep bringing this up.”

Perlmutter, who announced his plan to file an amendment in the Rules Committee shortly after the next of the negotiated defense bill was released earlier on Tuesday, said that he spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about pursuing other avenues to force the Senate to finally take up his legislation.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MA) applauded Perlmutter’s leadership on the issue and said “we have to do whatever we can to push it forward.” He added that “we’ve got to find another vehicle to make that [reform] real.”

Smith later added that the process of negotiating with the Senate on cannabis banking through NDAA resulted in “progress on this issue—and the Senate is under a lot more pressure to do something.”

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), who is not on the Rules Committee but who is a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said it is “incredibly disappointing” that the cannabis language was taken out of NDAA.

“The longer the Senate delays giving state-legal cannabis businesses access to basic banking services that every other legal US business has, the more it endangers public safety, stifles economic equity, and exacerbates the unsustainable patchwork of federal/state cannabis laws,” he said.

Separately, the new defense bill also excludes an NDAA amendment filed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) that would have streamlined the application process for researchers who want to investigate cannabis as well as manufacture the plant to be used in studies. It also doesn’t include a separate Schatz-led amendment to federally legalize medical marijuana for military veterans who comply with a state program where they live.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,300 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Advocates and lawmakers have been split on whether banking should advance through NDAA.

Supporters argue that enacting the reform is necessary for public safety, as many marijuana businesses operate on a largely cash-only basis without access to traditional financial institutions, making them targets of crime.

But some groups like the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) have urged leadership to hold off on banking reform until comprehensive legalization legislation that promotes social equity is approved.

Voices in favor of advancing marijuana banking through this defense vehicle have been wide ranging.

A coalition of financial associations and labor groups—including the American Bankers Association, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and United Food and Commercial Workers Union—was the latest to send a letter to Senate leadership urging the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in NDAA.

CUNA and other credit union associations sent a letter with a similar request to earlier last month.

Bipartisan members of the Senate Armed Services Committee also recently sent their own letter urging leaders to include the SAFE Banking Act in the final NDAA. Shortly thereafter, U.S. senators representing Colorado made the same request in a separate letter.

Last month, a bipartisan coalition of two dozen governors implored congressional leaders to finally enact marijuana banking reform through the large-scale defense legislation.

A group of small marijuana business owners also recently made the case that the incremental banking policy change could actually help support social equity efforts.

Rodney Hood, a board member of the National Credit Union Administration, wrote in a recent Marijuana Moment op-ed that legalization is an inevitability—and it makes the most sense for government agencies to get ahead of the policy change to resolve banking complications now.

Meanwhile, an official with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said that the agency would like to “get paid,” and it’d help if the marijuana industry had access to banks like companies in other legal markets so they could more easily comply with tax laws.

The secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department said last week that freeing up banks to work with state-legal marijuana businesses would “of course” make the IRS’s job of collecting taxes easier.

Federal data shows that many financial institutions remain hesitant to take on cannabis companies as clients, however, which is likely due to the fact that the plant is a strictly controlled substance under federal law.

While Schumer has been adamant in his push to first pass comprehensive reform—like the legalization bill he’s working on alongside Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)—he did signal that he’s open to enacting banking reform through NDAA if it contained social equity provisions.

On that note, a bipartisan duo filed a bill last week that would incentivize states and local governments to expunge cannabis records in their jurisdictions. And the Republican sponsor of that legislation, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), has been taunting Schumer in the days since to let banking reform be attached to NDAA.

DEA Backs White House Plan To Streamline Research On Marijuana, Psychedelics And Other Schedule I Drugs

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

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

Politics

Bipartisan Pennsylvania Senators File Bill To Let Medical Marijuana Patients Grow Their Own Plants

Published

on

A bipartisan group of Pennsylvania senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would allow medical marijuana patients to cultivate their own plants for personal use.

Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) first announced their intent to file the legislation in November, arguing that it is a necessary reform to ensure patient access by giving people a less costly alternative to buying from dispensaries.

Registered patients who are 21 and older, and who have been residents of the state for at least 30 days, could grow up to six plants in an “enclosed and locked space” at their residence, according to the text of the bill. They would be allowed to buy cannabis seeds from licensed dispensaries

 

In an earlier cosponsorship memo for the new home grow bill, the lawmakers said that letting patients cultivate their own medicine would “help ease the cost and accessibility burdens for this important medicine.”

The new legislation has three other initial cosponsors in addition to Street and Laughlin.

Street had attempted to get the reform enacted as an amendment to an omnibus bill this summer, but it did not advance.

The senators argue that patients in particular are deserving of a home grow option, as some must currently travel hours to visit a licensed dispensary and there are financial burdens that could be alleviated if patients could grow their own plants for medicine.

Late last year, Laughlin and Street also unveiled a separate adult-use legalization proposal that faces significant challenges in the GOP-controlled legislature. And Street is behind another recent cannabis measure to provide state-level protections to banks and insurers that work with cannabis businesses.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

In the interim, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who is running for U.S. Senate this year, said one of his key goals in his final year in office is to ensure that as many eligible people as possible submit applications to have the courts remove their cannabis records and restore opportunities to things like housing, student financial aid and employment through an expedited petition program.

Pennsylvania lawmakers could also take up more modest marijuana reform proposals like a bill filed late last year to expand the number of medical marijuana cultivators in the state, prioritizing small farms to break up what she characterized as a monopoly or large corporations that’s created supply problems.

Rep. Amen Brown (D) separately announced his intent to file a legalization bill that he’ll be working on with Sen. Mike Regan (R), who expressed his support for the policy change a day earlier.

Additionally, another pair of state lawmakers—Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D)—formally unveiled a legalization bill they’re proposing last year.

Philadelphia voters also approved a referendum on marijuana legalization in November that adds a section to the city charter saying that “the citizens of Philadelphia call upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor to pass legislation that will decriminalize, regulate, and tax the use, and sale to adults aged 21 years or older, of cannabis for non-medical purposes.”

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said last year that marijuana legalization was a priority as he negotiated the annual budget with lawmakers. However, his formal spending request didn’t contain legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change.

The governor, who signed a medical cannabis expansion bill in June, has repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform since coming out in favor of the policy in 2019. Shortly after he did that, a lawmaker filed a separate bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A survey from Franklin & Marshall College released last year found that 60 percent of Pennsylvania voters back adult-use legalization. That’s the highest level of support for the issue since the firm started polling people about it in 2006.

An attempt to provide protections for Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients from being charged with driving under the influence was derailed in the legislature last year, apparently due to pushback by the state police association.

Nebraska Activists Say New GOP Medical Marijuana Bill Is A ‘Poison Pill’ Meant To Detract From Ballot Efforts

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Minnesota Democratic Leaders Preview Marijuana Legalization Plan For 2022

Published

on

Minnesota Democratic leaders are preparing for another push to legalize marijuana this session, with the sponsor of the House-passed reform bill saying he will be reworking the legislation in an effort to build further support—though it continues to face an uphill climb in the GOP-controlled Senate.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) and Senate Minority Leader Melisa Franzen (D) discussed the legislative strategy during a roundtable event hosted by the Minnesota Hemp Growers Cooperative on Wednesday.

Winkler said that his bill, which moved through 12 committees before being approved on the House floor last year, is the “product of hundreds of hours of work involving thousands of people’s input, countless hearings and public listening sessions—but it is not a perfect bill.”

“As we look ahead to this session…our goal is to go back and reexamine provisions of the bill,” he said. Licensing structures, public safety and substance misuse concerns are among the issues that lawmakers will be looking at to improve upon the legislation.

“We will be working with our colleagues in the Minnesota Senate,” Winkler added. “We’re interested in pursuing legalization to make sure that the bill represents senators’ priorities for legalization as well.”

The leader said that “any effort this year that would be successful would require Republican support as well.”

But while advocates are encouraged to hear that the House may again vote to pass the legalization legislation, the Senate minority leader tempered expectations about the bill’s prospects in her Republican-run chamber.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a path to legalization this year in the Minnesota Senate,” Franzen said. “It’s controlled by the Republican party, and they have there’s a few members who are really adamantly opposed to legalization.”

Gov. Tim Walz (D) is supportive of cannabis legalization, and while the broad reform didn’t advance last session, he did sign a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, in part by allowing patients to access smokable cannabis products.

Winkler said on Wednesday that “it was because of the work done” by advocates on legalization that put pressure on Senate Republicans to advance that legislation.

Another cannabis issue playing out in Minnesota concerns CBD. The state agriculture department and pharmacy board have increased enforcement against the sale of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid in recent months, prompting calls for legislative reform.

Winkler said that the political dynamics around legalization that led to the expansion of the state’s medical cannabis program will be “a template for how we will address challenges with CBD this year.”

“My staff is working very closely with advocates, working with senators, working with other House members to get in a repair for the CBD industry, and I have every confidence that we will be able to do that with your help,” he said.

A poll conducted by Minnesota lawmakers that was released last year found that 58 percent of residents are in favor of legalization. That’s a modest increase compared to the chamber’s 2019 survey, which showed 56 percent support.

Winkler said in 2020 that if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the policy change legislatively, he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization And Expungements In Budget Request

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Nebraska Activists Say New GOP Medical Marijuana Bill Is A ‘Poison Pill’ Meant To Detract From Ballot Efforts

Published

on

A Republican Nebraska senator introduced a bill on Thursday that ostensibly seeks to legalize medical marijuana in the state—but activists have raised concerns that the restrictive measure may be an attempt to subvert an effort to pass even broader patient protections on the 2022 ballot.

Sen. Mike Groene (R) filed the legislation, which would allow certain patients to buy and possess cannabis oils, pills and up to two and a half ounces of flower at a limited number of dispensaries. Smoking or inhaling marijuana would be banned, however, as would making edibles—so it’s not clear how patients would consume the flower they could possess.

But the main problem is, the bill would maintain that cultivating marijuana in Nebraska for commercial or personal use is illegal, meaning dispensaries wouldn’t even have a legal means of obtaining cannabis products for patients.

The bill is also severely restrictive in terms of who would qualify for cannabis. It would only permit access to people with stage IV cancer, uncontrolled seizures, severe muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy or a terminal illness with less than a one year probable life expectancy.

It’s being backed by the Nebraska chapter of the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), leading some advocates to suspect that the lack of cultivation provisions is designed to be a “poison pill” while misleading voters into thinking that there is a good faith effort to legalize medical cannabis legislatively.

“This appears to be a political stunt,” Jared Moffat, state campaigns manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “Opponents of medical cannabis know there is a viable campaign to put medical cannabis on the ballot, and they know Nebraskans will overwhelmingly support that effort.”

“This is an attempt to take our focus away from that,” he said. “But it won’t succeed because it’s clear that this proposal is not a good faith effort to find some middle ground on the issue.”

The bill comes as Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) continues to work to collect signatures for a pair of medical cannabis legalization initiatives that advocates hope to place on the November ballot. They have until July to collect 87,000 valid signatures to qualify each of their complementary measures.

Activists with the group collected enough signatures to qualify a medical marijuana legalization measure for the 2020 ballot, but the state Supreme Court invalidated it, finding that the proposal violated the single-subject rule for citizen initiatives.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Now this legislation from Groene is entering the mix for the 2022 session. And SAM Nebraska co-chair John Kuehn told The Lincoln Journal-Star that it’s “a good faith effort and we are willing to look at this as an acceptable alternative to creating a marijuana industry in the state of Nebraska.”

While advocates aren’t necessarily buying that argument given that it would authorize dispensaries without providing the ability to cultivate marijuana products, some like NMM co-chair Sen. Anna Wishart (D) are willing to work with the senator to get the bill into a more acceptable shape for patients.

“It would be the status quo,” Wishart said. “I want a safe system, but there are practical realities patients are living with every day. No one wants a system that doesn’t work.”

Notably, Groene did support a procedural motion to advance Wishart’s more expansive medical cannabis bill last session.

Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democrats, pounced on the restrictive nature of Groene’s bill and said it makes it “not easy or feasible for most” to obtain a medical cannabis recommendation from a doctor.

Shari Lawlor, a member of Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis, said that the group is “grateful that Sen. Groene recognizes the importance of medical cannabis,” but as drafted, “this is a medical cannabis bill with no cannabis.”

“It envisions a system with dispensaries but no farmers or cultivators who actually produce the medical cannabis that patients need,” she said. “And since patients are not allowed to cultivate medical cannabis themselves under this proposal, there is effectively no way for patients to get the relief they need.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) is no fan of legalization. He partnered with SAM Nebraska on a recent ad urging residents to oppose cannabis reform in the state. Given the organization’s support for this new GOP proposal, there’s some suspicion that he might back it to give the appearance that the administration isn’t deaf to calls for reform by voters.

Advocates aren’t going to be deterred by the bill’s introduction. They will be moving forward with the complementary medical cannabis initiatives in hopes to getting the issue to voters.

The campaign deliberately chose to take a bifurcated approach because of the state Supreme Court invalidation over the single-subject rule.

One of the statutory initiatives would establish legal protections for patients and doctors around cannabis, while the other would allow private companies to produce and sell medical marijuana products.

Lawmakers attempted to advance medical cannabis reform legislatively last year, but while the unicameral legislature debated a bill to legalize medical marijuana in May, it failed to advance past a filibuster because the body didn’t have enough votes to overcome it.

Wishart and NMM co-chair Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) announced in late 2020 that they would also work to put the question of legalizing marijuana for adult use before voters in 2022. But for now their focus appears to be on the medical cannabis effort.

For what it’s worth, Nebraska’s attorney general argued in an opinion in 2019 that efforts to legalize medical marijuana legislatively in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would be, therefore, unconstitutional.”

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization And Expungements In Budget Request

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Marijuana Moment