Any hope to see Congress pass modest cannabis reforms during the lame-duck session was dashed this weekend after the SAFE Banking package and language for cannabis expungements were excluded from the must-pass annual spending bill. Additionally, lawmakers kept a rider in the bill that specifically blocks Washington D.C. from implementing regulated sales as described by its voter-approved cannabis legalization law, Marijuana Moment reports.
Despite Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D) last-ditch effort to get the SAFE Banking package passed during the lame-duck session, the banking reforms’ were reportedly excluded following pushback from GOP lawmakers. Democrats’ first attempt to approve the reforms this month by attaching the banking language to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was similarly squashed by Senate Republicans.
The excluded language for cannabis expungements, meanwhile, had been added to the House version of the bill earlier this year, the report said, but even that proved too contentious for GOP lawmakers in the Senate.
But while the national industry laments what’s left out of the omnibus spending package, cannabis industry representatives in Washington D.C. will face yet another year of Congress meddling in local affairs. Specifically, lawmakers voted to approve a long-standing rider that blocks the District from fully enacting its voter-approved cannabis reforms. That rider — originally proposed by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris (R) — was added to the spending package following the District’s 2014 legalization vote and prevents any local tax dollars from going toward establishing a regulated, adult-use market. It has been renewed each year since then.
“Democrats have promised action on cannabis consistently for the last two years, yet leadership consistently failed to prioritize and advance marijuana reform legislation, including legislation to provide clarity to banks and to provide grant funding for state-level expungements efforts, despite having several opportunities to do so,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a statement. “Democrats’ failure and the GOP’s continued resistance to any progress is out of step with voters’ opinion, is bad politics, and most importantly, it is bad public policy.”
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