Mitch McConnell And Other GOP Lawmakers Slam Marijuana Banking Provisions In Coronavirus Bill – Marijuana Moment

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) complained in a floor speech on Thursday that House Democrats were pushing for “diversity detectives” to study equity in the marijuana industry as part of their latest coronavirus relief package.

Like several other GOP legislators in recent days, the majority leader said Democrats were making partisan demands in the new legislation filed this week—and he zeroed in on a specific part of a section that would protect banks that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.

McConnell called language requiring research on minority-owned and women-owned marijuana businesses “the cherry on top” and sarcastically referred to it as the “bold new policy from Washington Democrats that will kick the coronavirus to the curb and save American families from this crisis.”

“Here it is: new annual studies on diversity and inclusion within the cannabis industry. Not one study but two of them,” he said. “Let me say that again, Democrats’ proposed coronavirus bill includes taxpayer-funded studies to measure diversity and inclusion among the people who profit off of marijuana.”

He added that the word “cannabis” appears in the bill 68 times. That’s “more times than the word ‘job’ and four times as many as the word ‘hire,’” he said.

That talking point has been echoed by a number of Republican lawmakers since House leadership unveiled their bill, indicating some level of party coordination on the anti-marijuana messaging. Despite the bluster, however, no GOP members filed amendments to strike the banking language prior to a Thursday House Rules Committee hearing to prepare the bill for floor action.

[embedded content]

Notably, however, McConnell never criticized the main thrust of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, just the study provision.

“Maybe it’s best if House Democrats focus on cannabis studies and leave economics to the rest of us,” he said, adding that even if the legislation was designed to be a messaging bill, it fails at that.

“That’s what’s so remarkable,” he said. “House Democrats had a blank slate to write anything wanted to define the modern Democratic Party, any vision for the society they wanted, and here’s what they chose: tax hikes on small businesses, giveaways to blue state millionaires, government checks for illegal immigrants and sending diversity detectives to inspect the pot industry.”

McConnell, who is a strong advocate for hemp and held closed-door meetings with marijuana businesses in California last year, never said in his floor remarks that he’s against providing protections for banks that work with the cannabis industry—the main point of the SAFE Banking Act that made it into the coronavirus bill.

That could have something to do with the fact that the standalone legislation—which includes the diversity study provisions—in his chamber currently has five Republican cosponsors, including Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and fellow Kentuckian Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Slamming a bill outright that Gardner, who is facing a serious reelection threat this November, has championed might not be the most strategic political move to help maintain GOP control of the chamber going into next year.

Staff running the Senate Republican Conference’s Twitter account appeared to recognize that on Tuesday. After listing the banking provision as an example of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) “political-pipe-dream” in the COVID-19 relief bill, Marijuana Moment’s publisher replied that they must not care about Gardner’s reelection bid. The tweet was then promptly deleted.

The House passed the SAFE Banking Act along largely bipartisan lines last year, with 91 Republicans joining most Democrats in voting aye. That strong support could help explain why no amendments were filed to remove the banking language in the Rules Committee, with members who might want to strike it acknowledging that the effort would likely fail.

Since the bill’s passage, Gardner has been involved in negotiations to reach a deal with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) on advancing the legislation in his chamber. He said earlier this year that an agreement was “close.” 

But based on various social media posts and statements by House and Senate Republicans, the prospects of enacting cannabis banking reform through the House’s latest iteration of COVID-19 relief legislation are questionable, with numerous GOP lawmakers issuing seemingly coordinated criticism of those provisions and questioning their germaneness.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said in a floor speech on Wednesday that the coronavirus bill “actually sets up a series of changes in our federal cannabis laws, which immediately I thought of, okay, how much information is in this bill by cannabis?”

“Cannabis is actually mentioned in this bill 68 times. Now, i’m not sure why that’s in a bill dealing with COVID-19, but it does dramatic changes in our federal cannabis laws,” he said.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) made similar points on the floor, stating that “Speaker Pelosi’s bill is very pro-cannabis.”

“I don’t know how the presiding officer feels about cannabis—that is your business—but it is controversial in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “I think it mentions cannabis something like 28 times.”

In a blog post on Thursday, GOP Senate leadership characterized the marijuana provision and other items of the House leadership’s bill as part of an “expensive, unserious wish list” and said the legislation is a “spending spree stuffed with a wish list filled up with all the party’s favored policies.”

Here are some other GOP reactions to the marijuana banking proposal:

If the House ultimately passes the legislation as is, which could happen as soon as Friday, it’s become increasingly evident that the cannabis components will face challenges when it gets to the GOP-controlled Senate.

This story was updated to include additional commentary from Republicans.

Most Members Of New Biden-Sanders Criminal Justice Task Force Back Marijuana Legalization

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.

Source: https://www.marijuanamoment.net/mitch-mcconnell-and-other-gop-lawmakers-slam-marijuana-banking-provisions-in-coronavirus-bill/