The Congress and marijuana. What’s new?

The annual policy bill for the Defense Department that members of Congress issued late on Tuesday did not include any provisions to loosen federal restrictions on marijuana, much to the dismay of supporters for the legalization of marijuana.

Because of this, there are not many opportunities left to approve marijuana legislation that would be beneficial to states in which the substance is already legal before Congress adjourns for the year.

The military bill, which is one of the last must-pass laws that Congress will debate while Democrats still control both chambers, was a potential target for proponents of legalizing marijuana to attach two bills to in order to speed up the legislative process.

It should be made clear that financial institutions who provide loans to lawful marijuana firms in states where the drug is sold legally are not in violation of federal law. The second proposal would make available cash from the federal government to assist states in expunging the criminal records of individuals who were convicted of crimes committed before the substance was proclaimed lawful at the state level.

In spite of the fact that the majority of the military bill is dedicated to authorizing programs at the Pentagon, it frequently contains extra policy initiatives.

However, neither of the marijuana-related proposals was included in the 4,400 pages of text that were made public Tuesday night for the 2022 bill.

Morgan Fox, the political director for the cannabis advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in an interview that there are fewer than two weeks left in the session, and the path to passage is now either as part of a year-end spending bill – another popular target for legislation – or on its own. This is because there are less than two weeks left in the session.

On Wednesday, Fox was quoted as saying, “I’m delighted that we still have other possibilities.” “That’s not what I was hoping for at all.”

Because the Senate will only be in session for a handful of days this year, and because there is a long list of priorities that still need to be addressed, including a bill to fund the government for the entire year and a measure to clarify election laws, it is unlikely that a vote will be held on a marijuana bill that stands on its own.

Divided among the states

21 states have made the use of marijuana for recreational purposes lawful, despite the fact that the federal government places marijuana on its list of the most restricted controlled substances.

This policy divide creates specific difficulties for state-legal enterprises in areas such as banking, where some banks refuse to cooperate with the marijuana industry out of fear that they will be in violation of federal law.

U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado who will be leaving office at the end of the year, has proposed a banking bill that would make it clear that federal regulators cannot penalize banks for conducting business with marijuana retailers who are in compliance with the laws of their respective states.

Since it was initially introduced in 2019, the banking law has been approved by the House of Representatives seven times, but it has never been approved by the Senate.

As Republicans prepare to assume control of the House in the coming year, the streak may be put in jeopardy. Despite receiving support from members of both parties and receiving a vote of 321-101 in favor of it in the previous year, the legislation may have a difficult time passing the House of Representatives in the following year if Ohio Republican Jim Jordan becomes the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee as expected. Jordan has frequently voted against initiatives to legalize marijuana, including voting against a plan that would let banks to profit from marijuana sales.

Before the language of the defense bill was announced on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who supports easing restrictions on marijuana use, told reporters that he was working on advancing legislation to legalize banking for marijuana businesses.

Schumer stated that it is one of his top priorities. “I’d like to get it done. We will make an effort to explore what the most effective strategy is to get it done.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican hailing from Kentucky, voiced his opposition to the inclusion of elements about marijuana in the military bill, citing the banking law as an example of an item that did not belong there.

He remarked, “We’re talking about making our financial system more friendly to illegal substances, which is a grab bag of miscellaneous pet priorities.” “We’re talking about a grab bag of miscellaneous pet priorities.” “The Democrats had two years to bring these contentious matters across the floor if they were so eager to get their hands on them.”

Colorado support

The passage of this measure is a top goal for states like Colorado, which saw legal marijuana sales begin in 2014 and grow to a total of $2.2 billion in sales in 2017. Other states like Washington and Oregon also see the bill as a top priority.

Conor Cahill, the spokesman for Colorado Governor Jared Polis, issued a written statement praising Perlmutter for his work and predicting that the legislation will be passed this year.

Cahill wrote in an email that was sent out on Tuesday that “Governor Polis has long advocated for the passage of the SAFE Banking Act, and has repeatedly called upon Congress to pass this important legislation to protect cannabis-related businesses, support minority, women, and veteran-owned small business owners, create jobs, and strengthen public safety in Colorado communities and in the states.” Cahill’s words came in response to a statement that “Governor Polis has repeatedly called upon Congress to pass this important legislation to protect cannabis-related businesses, “By the time the lame-duck session is over, we hope and anticipate that he will have succeeded in getting the bill that he has been working on for the past ten years finally passed.”

Members of Congress and state legislatures from states where recreational marijuana use is already permitted have continued to advocate for the bill’s approval.

An email sent out on Wednesday by the office of Republican U.S. Senator Steve Daines of Montana stated that “the Senator is continuing to work every day to establish consensus so that we can enact “SAFE Banking” into law this year.” Daines is a member of the Senate Banking Committee.

A representative for Jon Tester, Daines’ Democratic counterpart in the Senate, stated in a statement that “he would like to see it pass this Congress.”

Senators Daines and Tester are two of the 42 people who have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

This Congress, Schumer did not bring the banking bill to the floor because he was more interested in passing a more comprehensive federal legalizing package that he had proposed with with fellow Senate Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

In a statement from the previous year, Booker said, “Although the SAFE Banking Act is a common-sense policy that I support, it has to be coupled with strong restorative justice provisions that seek to right the many injustices experienced by Black and brown communities as part of our nation’s failed war on drugs.” Booker was referring to the fact that many black and brown communities have been victimized as a result of our country’s failed war on drugs.

Wednesday night, a message was sent with a spokesman for Booker, but we did not receive a response.

Fox stated that Schumer’s advocacy will be essential to the passage of the law; but, the respect shown to a more comprehensive plan may have hampered its prospects of passing this year.

According to Fox, “I think it was incredibly vital to have the support of the leadership of the Senate.” “I wish they had gotten the ball rolling on this way earlier in the session, instead of waiting until after the (Schumer-Booker-Wyden measure) was introduced,” the senator said. “It would have been better for everyone involved.”

While progress was being made on the more comprehensive proposal, campaigners had thought that combining the bipartisan banking package and a bill to offer $20 million in grants to help states process expungements into a single law by the end of the year would be sufficient.

This year, Ohio Republican David Joyce introduced that bill, which was a bipartisan effort, in the United States House of Representatives. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York; Don Young, a Republican from Alaska; Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon; David Trone, a Democrat from Maryland; and Perlmutter were all cosponsors of the bill.

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