A provision that would protect banks working with cannabis businesses has caused serious tension between Democrats and Republicans.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi defended the decision to include cannabis banking protections in the Democrats’ latest coronavirus stimulus bill, following strong criticisms by Republicans. As part of the $3 trillion stimulus bill, the provision would allow legal marijuana businesses to access banking services.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attacked the provision earlier this week, saying it wasn’t “directly related” to the coronavirus response. Pelosi responded to those charges Friday and what she called “misrepresentation” in the Republicans’ proposed relief package.
“I don’t agree with you that cannabis is not related to this,”
Pelosi said at a Friday press conference. “This is a therapy that has proven successful.”
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Pelosi didn’t cite any specific studies, but
a recent Israeli clinical trial found cannabis terpenes and CBD outperformed the leading COVID-19 treatment in reducing disease-related inflammation. Another preliminary study reported that cannabis might also prevent the spread and severity of COVID-19, though the research hasn’t been peer-reviewed.
McConnell mercilessly attacked Pelosi on the Senate floor this week for attaching the cannabis banking provision. He noted the word “cannabis” appeared 68 times in the Democrats’ stimulus package. That’s “more times than the word ‘job’ and four times as many as the word ‘hire,’” he said.
He also labeled language in the bill that required research into minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the cannabis space as “the cherry on top.”
Photo by Bill Oxford/Getty Images “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.”
“I’m opposed to non-germane amendments,” McConnell added, though he didn’t
commit to removing a provision from the Republican bill added by the White House that allots $1.75 billion to rebuild FBI headquarters in downtown Washington.
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted Friday that Pelosi’s defense of the cannabis provision was “incredibly irresponsible.”
“Pelosi just doubled down on her $3 trillion dollar cannabis legislation, falsely claiming that it’s a proven therapy for coronavirus. Hey Nancy, let’s focus on the pandemic. Not pot,” McCarthy wrote.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which is already House approved, would allow financial institutions to work with state-compliant cannabis businesses. Lawmakers have also argued the SAFE Banking Act would lower potential spread of the coronavirus, as it would reduce the number of cash transactions that currently occur inside marijuana dispensaries.
“Our industry employs hundreds of thousands of Americans and has been deemed ‘essential’ in most states,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), said in a
statement. “It’s critically important that essential cannabis workers are not exposed to unnecessary health risks due to outdated federal banking regulations.”