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Marijuana Rescheduling Will Make Republicans ‘More Comfortable’ Voting For Banking And Other Reforms, Former GOP Congressman Says



A former GOP congressman says he expects Republicans will be “more comfortable voting yes” for incremental marijuana reform measures like a banking access bill for the industry now that the administration is moving to reschedule cannabis.

Former Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-founder Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) both discussed the future prospects of marijuana policy during a webinar hosted by the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC) last week.

Blumenauer, a leading champion of marijuana reform efforts over five decades, agreed with Davis that the rescheduling decision from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will “open the floodgates” for additional congressional action such as passage of a bipartisan cannabis banking bill.

“It’s going to make it much easier to have other items that are queued up,” the Democratic congressman said. “With this, it’s going to be a matter of time before we get movement in the Senate—dealing with the banking issue, which is long overdue.”

“Taking it to Schedule III is, first of all a signal, that people recognize that the current scheduling process is completely wrong, flawed and unfair,” Blumenauer said. “It takes care of a major problem that we’ve faced.”

Davis, meanwhile, was asked how he thought the potential Schedule III reclassification would affect broader congressional marijuana reform efforts.

The former GOP lawmaker, who sponsored bipartisan legislation to provide for federal marijuana expungements in 2022 before retiring, said that “I think they’ll be more comfortable voting yes,” adding that the rescheduling move is “a great step.”

“This is an opportunity for the administration to put forth their vision and then move that vision into a reality,” Davis said. He added that while there’s been talk about the Biden administration politically benefitting from championing cannabis reform, it’s an “issue that affects all demographics, it affects all races and it affects everyone.”

Blumenauer also gave credit to President Joe Biden for the modest steps that the administration has taken, saying while the issue has “not been strong suit” for the president, he deserved applause for granting a pair of mass marijuana pardons and initiating the scheduling review despite holding “mixed feelings” about cannabis itself.

The congressman also reiterated his belief that the Justice Department would soon be reissuing marijuana enforcement discretion guidances that was rescinded under the Trump administration. He and the former DOJ official who authored the original memorandum told Marijuana Moment last week that they expect it will be expanded to account for societal changes around the issue, as well as the rescheduling push.

“I think this is something that matters to people across the board,” he said. “Rodney said, fairly, that this affects young and old. It’s red state, blue state. We’ve watched red state voters overcome the opposition from the Republican legislators who have tried to torpedo this, and slowly but surely, we’re starting to see more Republicans get on board in Congress.”

“I’ve been working on this longer than any elected official in the country. This is my 51st year,” he said. “No politician has ever been punished for being on the right side of history and the right side of cannabis. Indeed, the Democrats wouldn’t be in control of the Senate if it weren’t for cannabis.”

Blumenauer also weighed in on the prospects of advancing a marijuana banking bill, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act. He noted that it’s passed the House in some form seven times now, but the reform has so far ultimately gone to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) “legislative hospice to die.”

“Well, McConnell is not the majority leader, so he doesn’t have that capacity to torpedo it,” Blumenauer said. “And it is a priority with Democratic leadership. It’s got bipartisan support in the Senate. I’m quite confident that, regardless of which avenue we take, this is something that can happen this session, and I hope sooner rather than later.”

Senate sources say McConnell is raising issues with the banking reform again, leading leaders to abandon plans to attach it to must-pass Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation. But Schumer has signaled that the possibility isn’t entirely off the table yet, and he remains committed to advancing the policy change.

Davis, meanwhile, reiterated that the banking legislation “is a long time coming, and whatever vehicle it takes to be able to move forward is what what cannabis advocates like like Earl and [Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH)] and others need to need to latch on to.”

“I’m glad that this gets bipartisan support. There’s going to be opposition, but in the end, there’s so much bipartisan support for an issue such as SAFE Banking that it could stand alone,” he said. “It’s just a matter of whether or not it can get called up to be able to have that vote once again.”

But while both lawmakers have emphasized that they feel the move to reschedule marijuana will bolster other cannabis proposals this Congress, there has been key opposition to the incremental reform, including from House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) last week.

Blumenauer and Davis both agreed that Scalise is out of touch on the issue.

“I think, ultimately, it’s going to pose problematic issues for them politically,” Blumenauer said. “I think the number of people who are defenders of the failed war on drugs is shrinking dramatically. There are people who’ve come along. They’ve started to see the light.”

Davis added that “the one thing about being an elected official, as time goes on, is sometimes you can get educated on the issue by your constituents as to how important a change in opinion might be. And let’s hold out hope that Steve will change his opinion.”

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