With the pandemic wrecking the normalcy and garnering maximum attention, reforms and laws pertaining to cannabis have taken a back seat. To quicken the pace, the supporters have included the amendments and reforms in the coronavirus relief package.
Last Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended the decision to include reforms like the marijuana banking protections in the coronavirus relief package and said that cannabis reform plays a role in the pandemic, and hence, its inclusion is necessary.
The Republicans criticized the Speaker and the inclusion, calling it irrelevant to the health crisis at hand.
The speaker said, “I don’t agree with you that cannabis is not related to this.” She further added, “This is a therapy that has proven successful.”
It has been quite unclear if the Speaker referred to the marijuana plant’s therapeutic potential or if she advocated its medicinal value and relief for the virus that has claimed thousands of lives already.
The Food and Drug Administration has warned companies that claim that cannabinoids can treat patients affected by COVID-19 since there’s no substantial evidence proving the same.
Before the legislation’s introduction, Pelosi supported including the banking language to the coronavirus package. In 2018, she said that doctors should opt for prescribing yoga and medicinal cannabis instead of prescription opioids.
Several lawmakers have defended the inclusion of Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act for reasons that are to safeguard the financial institutions that deal with cash regularly, thereby, risking exposure to the virus. They believe that the SAFE Banking Act would minimize the cash exchanges at dispensaries and lower the risk of infection.
On Monday, the Senate leadership released the coronavirus relief legislation, and it does not include provisions for the SAFE Banking Act. Whether the bicameral negotiators will be able to incorporate it in the final bill that will be sent to the president’s desk or not, remains to be seen.
Republican leaders took to Twitter to slam Pelosi’s latest comments on cannabis. On Friday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wrote, “Pelosi just doubled down on her $3 trillion dollar cannabis legislation, falsely claiming that it’s a proven therapy for coronavirus.”
He further added, “Hey Nancy, let’s focus on the pandemic. Not pot.”
The Senate Republican Communication Center also joined in by calling the marijuana reforms and amendments “wish-list items” that the Democrats were pushing for.
They wrote, “House Democrats are continuing to try and push unrelated COVID-19 wish-list items. All of them should be taken out.”
The standalone SAFE Banking Act, after being approved by the House months ago, now sits in the Senate without action.
In May, a bipartisan coalition of 34 state attorney generals urged the passage of COVID-19 legislation that contained cannabis banking provisions.
And earlier in July, a bipartisan coalition of state treasurers wrote to the Congress, asking them to include banking protection for cannabis in the next piece of coronavirus relief legislation.
A day before Pelosi’s comments to defend the inclusion, the House approved an amendment that protects the state, territory and tribal cannabis laws from the interference of the federal body.
We are yet to see which amendments would eventually see the light of the day.
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