It was looking like a bright Christmas season with the long-awaited SAFE Banking Act finally up for passage, as it was recently amended into the National Defense Authorization Act by the House of Representatives. But it wasn’t to be. The Senate leadership chose to remove it from the defense spending bill, ending its chances for passage in the near future.
As a whole the SAFE Act still has plenty of bipartisan support in Congress. However, it ran into opposition from both the Drug Policy Alliance and key Senate Democrats including Chuck Schumer and Cory Booker who wanted to see MORE Act legalization passed first.
As the Drug Policy Alliance stated in a press release, “By slipping SAFE into the Defense Authorization bill ahead of moving the MORE Act, Congress is sending a clear message that the industry and huge multi-state operators take precedent before the countless people that have had their lives devastated by punitive and racially-motivated drug policies.”
The co-sponsor of the SAFE Act, Representative Ed Perlmutter, admitted he is “pretty irritated” over this development — but he is continuing to press on for passage, along with the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Reps. Dave Joyce and Don Young. As Perlmutter stated in his own release, “The Senate insists on burying its head in the sand and deny every opportunity to reform our outdated cannabis laws to align state and federal law to improve product safety.” The three decided to not force a vote to reinsert the legislation into the defense bill — but did state they won’t step away from a future showdown if it comes to that.
What this did spur were more attempts to get President Biden and Vice-President Harris to take action on their campaign promises to reschedule cannabis under federal law. On December 16, another letter was sent to the White House from Reps. Blumenauer and Joyce on behalf of the Cannabis Caucus members stressing that as long as cannabis remains a Schedule I drug, it forces “significant research restrictions” that impair the ability of medical professionals and researchers to develop and provide life-saving therapies for patients and veterans with cancer, multiple sclerosis, PTSD and other conditions.
The letter also states that “Cannabis’ schedule I classification puts the U.S. far behind many of our international partners and scientific competitors including: Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Malta and the Netherlands.” It continues by reminding the President that “with nearly two thirds of Americans in agreement on the need for federal cannabis reform, your administration must begin to seriously engage on the topic, regardless of where you stand.” And the letter ends by criticizing Biden and Harris for their “continued silence.” Some of the individual legislators also sent their own follow-up letters.
Will there be any successful action by Congress or the White House? Perhaps — but at this point, with Biden’s signature “Build Back Better” legislation having its own problems moving forward, nothing substantive is likely to happen until well into 2022.