Friday, December 1, 2023

Senate Democrats Needs To Look At Real Cannabis Reform

While the Dems have majority rule in both chambers of Congress, the margin is so slim that it’s going to take some bare-knuckle politics to pass anything on their agenda.

The U.S. Senate is expected to address nationwide cannabis reform in the coming months, and the cannabis industry can’t wait to see how it’s going to look. Some think Congress will try to pass a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level. In contrast, others believe that, given the complexities of the Hill this session, Senate Democrats needs to look at real cannabis reform, not just what is out currently.

Unfortunately, the bare minimum could involve a bill known as the SAFE Banking Act. It’s a measure that would allow financial institutions to do business with the cannabis industry without a DEA raid. And if this bill is the best that the new Democratic Congress can do for Americans, well, they should just give them another stimulus check or something. 

The SAFE Banking Act is not cannabis reform.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and crew appear eager to pass legislation that does more than connect banks with the weed business. At the beginning of February, Schumer, along with Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, released a joint statement revealing their dedication to passing “comprehensive cannabis reform” in the new session — retribution for decades of drug war savagery.  

The Senators wrote

“We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies. The Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.”

Does Democratic Senate Really Have Enough Power To Legalize Marijuana Nationwide?
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The keyword in the statement is “consideration.” While the Democrats have majority rule in both chambers of Congress, the margin is so slim that it’s still going to take some savoir fare and perhaps even some bare-knuckle politics to pass anything on their agenda. It is going to be tough to get a comprehensive cannabis proposal approved in the Senate. Many Republicans still aren’t about weed enough to get onboard. However, Democrats need some support across the aisle to get it done.

Even President Biden wants to be careful.

RELATED: Does Democratic Senate Really Have Enough Power To Legalize Marijuana Nationwide?

Biden has said that he would support decriminalization and medical marijuana, but he doesn’t think a full-scale taxed and regulated cannabis market is suitable for the United States. At least, not yet. So, we don’t know what the Senate thinks it can accomplish under these conditions, but comprehensive isn’t it. 

Cannabis experts believe the most likely scenario this year is a marijuana-related bill that mimics three popular pieces of legislation that have been making the rounds on the Hill over the past few years. There is the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was passed in a historic vote by the entire US House of Representatives last December; the States Act, a bill that simply forces the federal government to recognize state-level legalization efforts, and the SAFE Banking Act — a measly banking bill disguised as cannabis reform. 

RELATED: Congressional Democrats Must Legalize Marijuana Nationwide Before Midterms, Or Else

Whatever mutated version emerges from the pile will likely only equate to marijuana decriminalization and not a taxed and regulated market. Even modest reforms will be a tall order this year. Democrats must find a way to make a bill palatable to Republicans, especially Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and come to terms on its reach. That seems unlikely given the divisiveness of Congress. Remember, Senate Democrats have only promised to give the cannabis issue “consideration.” No promises have been made. They understand that getting a bill approved is going to be a knockdown dragged-out fight — and it’s one they will probably lose. 

RELATED: How Prohibitionist Ideology Has Wrecked The Republican Party And Undermined Democracy

We just hope the party’s desperation to pass a marijuana bill doesn’t get the best of them, causing a push for a bare minimum measure like SAFE Banking. Although more pot businesses could make deposits — plenty of banks are already working with the cannabis industry — Americans would still get busted for weed. Nothing about this legislation can be called cannabis reform. Senate Democrats needs to look at real cannabis reform and continue the fight.


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