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This Will Be The ‘Last 4/20 Celebration’ With Marijuana Still In Schedule I, Congressman Says, While Predicting House Action On Cannabis Banking Bill



This Saturday will be the “last 4/20 celebration that cannabis will be on Schedule I,” a Democratic congressman predicts, adding that he’s “quite confident” the GOP House will take up a bipartisan cannabis banking bill if lawmakers “break this loose in the Senate.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, founding co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, spoke to reporters during a briefing on Friday, discussing marijuana policy progress and his message to Democrats that they should seize upon the popularity of the issue ahead of the November election.

“The public is not waiting anymore. They have led the charge in state after state and are responsible for much of the remarkable progress,” he said. “This is the year that I think we can break the federal logjam. One thing is certain: This is the last 4/20 celebration that cannabis will be on Schedule I.”

As far as his own cannabis holiday plans go, Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment that “every day is like 4/20,” but “unfortunately I’m here voting in our nation’s capital so it takes a little bit of the edge off.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), but the timing of the agency’s final rulemaking is currently unknown—though there are strong expectations it will be announced ahead of the upcoming elections.

A DEA official recently said it sometimes takes up to six months for DEA to complete its analysis of health officials’ scheduling recommendations, which is less than how long it has now been since the agency began its current cannabis assessment.

On marijuana banking reform, Blumenauer was asked about the prospects of the GOP House taking up the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act if it advances out of the Senate, possibly as part of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization package with cryptocurrency legislation attached as well.

While, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) recently said he thinks it’s “unlikely” that the House would move the cannabis bill given tenuous partisan politics in the chamber under anti-marijuana Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), Blumenauer said he sees a pathway.

“Every day we’re closer on SAFE Banking,” he said. “Negotiations are ongoing in the House and Senate, and we are, in fact, making progress.”

“The vote on SAFE Banking is the ultimate whip count,” the congressman said. “There is no doubt in my mind that, the same way that we had overwhelming support in the House—repeatedly passing the SAFE Banking with overwhelming bipartisan majorities—that bipartisan support is getting stronger.”

“I’m quite confident that if we’re able to break this loose in the Senate, which looks increasingly likely, it won’t be a problem in terms of ultimate consideration in the House,” he said. “This is an issue that commands broad bipartisan support in the House and is exactly the sort of thing that I would counsel House leadership, particularly Speaker [Mike] Johnson, to facilitate.”

Blumenauer, who is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, predicted in a January memo that 2024 would be a “productive year” in federal marijuana reform—with lawmakers positioned to leverage “tremendous bipartisan investments” from 2023, while pushing the Biden administration to move further on the issue ahead of this year’s election.

Blumenauer and fellow Cannabis Caucus co-chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) also told Attorney General Merrick Garland last month that it is “unacceptable” that the Department of Justice has yet to reissue federal cannabis enforcement guidance to discourage interference in state cannabis programs, leaving Americans in a “legal limbo” despite promises to update the policy.

He also laid into HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra last month over the “political malpractice” that is the president’s failure to end marijuana prohibition.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), meanwhile, recently reiterated his intent to pass legislation to “safeguard cannabis banking” as part of a “busy agenda” that he hopes to achieve in the “weeks and months ahead,” though he again stressed the need for bipartisan cooperation.

He also recently asked people to show their support for the SAFER Banking Act by signing a petition as he steps up his push for the legislation. A poll released last month by the American Bankers Association (ABA) shows that roughly three out of five Americans support allowing marijuana industry access to the banking system.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) said that that “if Republicans want to keep the House,” they should pass the marijuana banking bill, arguing that “there are votes” to approve it.

Schumer told Marijuana Moment last month that the bill remains a “very high priority” for the Senate, and members are having “very productive” bicameral talks to reach a final agreement.

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