The biggest news item of the day in the cannabis industry is that the House introduced its latest coronavirus relief bill, and included the language from the SAFE Banking Act that ensures banking access for the cannabis industry. The SAFE Banking Act was introduced in the House last year, and passed the full House by a bipartisan 321-103 vote. It was then sent to the Senate where it has remained in limbo in the banking committee. The widely known reason for this is that Mike Crapo, who chairs the Senate Committee, and the republican leadership in the Senate have always been staunchly opposed to cannabis reform of any kind. Despite the bipartisan support the SAFE Banking Act has received, and the landmark event of being the first standalone cannabis reform bill to pass the House in United States history, the SAFE Banking Act is nowhere close to becoming a law.
However, what happened after the coronavirus bill was introduced is perhaps more interesting. The Senate GOP posted a response on its twitter page, calling the bill a “political pipe dream” of Nancy Pelosi’s. It went on to point to several provisions in the bill, including the SAFE Banking Act language. After a journalist at Marijuana Moment pointed out that the bill has bipartisan support in the Senate, the tweet was deleted. It seems that the Senate GOP’s decision to publicly criticize the cannabis banking bill was not well received by all, and it was pulled back.
It may be the case that there has been a shift in policy in this regard. The coronavirus pandemic has caused the cannabis industry to undergo significant change. It was declared an essential industry by nearly every jurisdiction, giving the industry a significant boost. Laws were amended and relaxed to ensure that patients were able to receive their medicine while minimizing the risk of infection. Several legislators and governors of not-yet-legal states have commented on the importance and value of having a cannabis industry, and lamented the fact that their state does not yet have a legal program in place.
And maybe, just maybe, coronavirus is the event that finally moves the needle on federal legalization as well. Plenty of people have talked about this, but this may be the first sign that the Republican leadership is getting behind cannabis legalization. The most certain thing about this coronavirus is that budgets are going to be hard to balance in the coming months and years. Governments of all sizes will be hurting for capital, and the cannabis industry continues to prove itself as a valuable source of tax proceeds. What better time for the federal government to legalize marijuana? We now have the science figured out, the regulatory details figured out, and the people behind it. Let us raise a glass, nay a joint, and hope that this is truly the beginning of a remarkable change for the cannabis industry, the cannabis community, and the plant itself.
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