Congress Won’t Legalize Pot Anytime Soon, but It Could Protect Marijuana Businesses by Passing Banking Reform

New Jersey is the 18th state that has legalized recreational marijuana. These states make up more than 2/5ths of America’s population. Another 19 states have legalized medical marijuana, which means that 3/4 of all states have abandoned a blanket ban. The latest Gallup poll shows that more than half of Americans believe marijuana should be legal. The federal government prohibits the use of marijuana for any reason, so it’s unlikely this will change.

Republican resistance is a major problem. Three Republicans were against the legislation when the House of Representatives passed it. It would have repealed federal prohibitions on pot. In the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), is a latecomer in marijuana reform and plans to bring a bill for legalization to the Senate “before August recess”, one year after his preliminary draft was unveiled. This bill is similar to the House’s, but it seems certain to be rejected by the Senate. Schumer has not made any effort to gain the Republican support that he needs to override a filibuster.

Michael Tesler points out FiveThirtyEightRecent polling data shows that Republican voters increasingly oppose legalization, so the opposition of GOP legislators to legalization is quite puzzling. Gallup poll results showed that half of Republicans believe marijuana should become legal. This is slightly higher than the 49% who didn’t agree. Quinnipiac’s 2021 poll found that 62 percent of Republicans support legalization.

According to Tesler, Civiqs polling data shows that “it’s Republicans.” [who are]This is a significant factor in the recent rise in support for legalizing cannabis. According to the Civiqs numbers, “net support” for legalization (the percentage in favor minus the percentage opposed) among Republicans “grew from –15 points at the start of April 2018 to a high of +13 points at the end of March.” Tesler also stated that Civiqs polls show that almost all states have more Republicans in favor of legal cannabis than those that oppose it.

Republican Congressmen may have a personal conviction that is more important than their comprehension of the constituents they represent. Tesler writes: “Congressional Republicans, compared with most Americans, tend to have older and more religious members, which are two demographics that are much more opposed to legalization than those who are younger or less religious. GOP politicians are often opposed to legalizing drugs for conservative principles such as morality and order, family values, and so they oppose it.

Tesler suggests, however that GOP lawmakers may not be aware of how drastically Republican views have changed on legalization in the past few years. According to Tesler, “Political science research suggests that politicians overestimate the support they have for conservative policy,” and that Republican lawmakers are responsible for much of this phenomenon. Some congressional Republicans might oppose federal legalization because it is believed they represent their constituents’ views.

If this is the case, then polling data can be a valuable tool for Democrats in their efforts to form a bipartisan coalition against repealing federal cannabis ban. Federalism is an alternative point of entry. It’s a conservative principle that states should be able to regulate federal marijuana policy. Even lawmakers who are opposed to marijuana prohibition might feel that Congress should allow them.

One likely prospect is Sen. Dan Sullivan (R–Alaska), who is cosponsoring the SAFE Banking Act, which would protect financial institutions from federal penalties for serving state-licensed marijuana businesses. Sullivan told MJBizDailyHe supports cannabis reform because it is what his constituents want. You think that my state did it in a statewide election? He said. “And so the Alaskan people spoke. I am trying to honor their wishes.” Sullivan stated, when discussing broader reforms: “The big, core and fundamental question is: Will this be state-led? Or will it be federal on the down?”

Although it has been almost ten months since Schumer released his “discussion draft”, so far the conversation seems to have been limited almost exclusively to Democrats. Schumer stated a couple weeks back that he had reached out to several Republicans in order to find their views. This week MJBizDailyIt was found that Schumer only had made contact with two GOP senators, Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska’s other senator). Murkowski stated, “In all honesty, I’m not as acquainted with what Schumer wants, so it would probably be good for me to sit down, find out.”

Schumer’s office reported MJBizDaily He chose Murkowski and Sullivan because they “appeared to be most receptive from the Republican side.” But seven other Republican senators—Steve Daines (Mont.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Susan Collins (Maine), and Roy Blunt (Mo.)—joined Sullivan and Murkowski in cosponsoring the SAFE Banking Act, which suggests they are interested in addressing the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.

Schumer is in desperate need of every Republican vote. “At least two Democratic senators —Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have expressed skepticism about full legalization,” MSNBC columnist Hayes Brown notes. Given the possibility of a Republican filibuster it would be necessary for Schumer to obtain at least 12 GOP votes in order to pass any comprehensive bill.

Schumer seems to be determined not to acknowledge this fact. Schumer seems determined to ignore this fact. His draft bill of 163 pages is full of prescriptive, unnecessarily burdensome and contentious provisions, all of which are likely to cause alienation among potential allies.

The Senate has much greater chances of passing the SAFE Banking Act, despite the dim prospects for federal legalization in the near term. It would actually be law as an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Joe Biden in December. However, Schumer did not insist that the item be removed from the final bill. He believed that his yet to be seen bill should come first, but he warned that the bank issue could ease the pressure to reform more broadly.

Drug Policy Alliance, (DPA) also shared this sentiment and told supporters in December that they had. Less than 72 hoursIt is important to keep the SAFE Banking Act out of this Omnibus Bill. Advocates such as you must speak up immediately. DPA described the bill as “prioritizable”[ing] marijuana profits over people”—a bizarre stance given the burdens and sometimes deadly hazards created by the lack of banking services, which forces marijuana suppliers to rely heavily on cash, making them ripe targets for robbers.

By contrast, Democrats in the House—which has approved marijuana banking half a dozen times, only to be frustrated by Senate inaction—were dismayed by Schumer’s obstruction. “I don’t really quite know what the hell his problem is,” House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D–Mass.) said. “People are still getting killed and businesses are still getting robbed because of a lack of action from the Senate,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D–Colo.The House sponsor of SAFE Banking Act is Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo).

When the House voted on Perlmutter’s bill last April, it passed by a 3–1 margin with support from 106 Republicans. This tally combined with nine Republican co-sponsors at the Senate suggests that Perlmutter’s bill is likely to win this year, provided Schumer permits a vote. “The issue that I am emphasizing together with Senator Schumer, I believe, is a uniting issue,” Sullivan said to MJBizDaily. He was referring specifically to bank reform. This is also a safety concern. Businesses are required to keep tens or thousands of dollars of cash around because they can’t get a bank account. This is dangerous.

America COMPETES Act (the House’s version) is the most recent vehicle for the SAFE Banking Act. It also includes Perlmutter’s legislation. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws noted this week that “Unfortunately”, the Senate passed a companion bill which removed the SAFE Bank language. It now goes to conference committee, where both the Senate and House versions of the legislation will be reconciled. However, this is still the greatest obstacle in keeping cannabis banking reform contained in the final compromise.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee & Attorney General Bob Ferguson (both Democrats) reiterated their demand for cannabis banking reform in Tacoma. The News TribuneOp-ed published Tuesday. They write that robberies have occurred in more than 50 marijuana stores across Washington State so far in 2022. “That’s more than 50 robberies in less than three months—many of them by perpetrators with firearms and two of which resulted in people being killed.”

Inslee & Ferguson agree that the solution is simple. They say that Congress must act immediately to adopt the SAFE Banking Act. This would allow cannabis retailers to use cashless payment options like credit cards and debit cards. This is a critical issue. Congress has the power to act immediately and pass the SAFE Banking Act. Businesses are paying extraordinary fees to have their own security guards. Every day that goes by, they delay the bill. Employees at retail stores are often abused, threatened and even murdered.”

Schumer’s position on the SAFE Banking Act, in light of the ongoing threat to the cannabis industry from a lack of financial services is difficult to understand. That bill is likely to be passed, but it’s not Schumer’s. It would provide immediate assistance for state-licensed marijuana retailers and their workers. NORML and the DPA seem to not understand that it’s better to get a piece of the cake than none at all.

Schumer doesn’t really care about federal marijuana reform based on his behavior, but his words. Schumer wants to claim credit for trying, and then blame Republicans for the inevitable failure. Tesler states that Democrats would do well to bring up the opposition of congressional Republicans to legalizing marijuana as a topic in the midterm elections. This seems to be Schumer’s original plan.