Sunday, May 26, 2024

Will House Speaker Chaos Hurt Cannabis Again

The House seems to be about ready to have speaker chaos again. Will it hurt the cannabis industry like last time?

It seems the US House of Representative might be thrown into turmoil again. Last fall, rejection of then House Speaker Kevin McCarthy lead to a bruising fight for a new leader.  The winner of the fight is Rep. Mike Johnson, who is now again in danger of being ousted.  The last fight ended with very little down in Congress and the only major bill to pass was a temporary funding of the government.  Now it looks like it will start all over again.  But will House speaker chaos hurt cannabis again?

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After passing the House seven times, Safe Banking, which is key to help the industry, failed in the Senate.  Then, like a miracle, last fall Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) put together an updated bill in the Senate with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Steve Daines (R-MT), and U.S. Representatives Dave Joyce (R-OH-14) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03). They introduced a bipartisan, bicameral Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFER) Banking Act of 2023. The bill would ensure that legal cannabis businesses would have access to critical banking and financial services.  As they had big support in the Senate and a positive history with the House, things looked good – and then the House went sideways and McCarthy was ousted. But what about now?

green leaf plant

Now Representative Marjorie Taylor Green(R-GA) is calling to vacate Speaker Johnson (R-LA) and has a new ally in her efforts. But, at the moment, cannabis can ride a short term House hiccup.  Rescheduling seems to be moving forward after a slow start by the Biden administration. Now the President, Vice President and other leaders are pushing the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to follow the Health and Human Service (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggestions to reschedule cannabis and recognize it as a proven medical benefit.

Rescheduling is the most critical to the industry providing long and short term infrastructure to help the marijuana market.  It also signals to the public marijuana can be a benefit. Congress does not have a role in the process, so no worry there.

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Senator Schumer has also made it clear a revised banking bill is important, but most likely will not happen until later in the year.  This gives the House time to sort the mess and evaluate the benefits of a banking bill.  And its appeal to younger voters. Hopefully this will all be cleaned up no later than mid-May.

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