Bloomberg News reports on the continuing impasse in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate over passage of the SAFE Banking Act, legislation to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to access banking services currently denied them under federal law:
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said he’s hoping the Trump administration and other lawmakers can help him salvage a plan to provide banking services for the burgeoning marijuana industry that’s increasingly critical to his home state.
Gardner, facing a tough re-election bid in 2020, said he’s evaluating changes Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said must be made to a pot banking bill (H.R. 1595) that Gardner pushed for with Republicans and Democrats in both chambers.
Sen. Cory Gardner, a longtime staunch social conservative Republican who represented the beet-red 4th Congressional District, has always been a counterintuitive spokesperson in supporting the legal cannabis industry pioneered in Colorado and now the law in a growing bevy of states from coast to coast. Gardner like most of the bipartisan political establishment in Colorado opposed the passage of Amendment 64, but since legalization Gardner has made solemn vows to “honor the will of the voters.”
These are the voters Cory Gardner will answer to next year, after the voters of Colorado have punished Republicans in every subsequent election. So while Gardner may not be able to “honor” the will of Colorado voters like, you know, a Democrat would, marijuana offers Gardner a unique opportunity to please an electorate on the whole most unhappy with the Republican brand in general and Cory Gardner in particular.
But there’s just one little problem remaining: Republicans control the U.S. Senate.
Gardner said the bill has a long road ahead and that he’s nowhere close to having the number of votes required to show McConnell the measure can survive a filibuster. [Pols emphasis]
“I think the challenge is some agreement on language,” Gardner said. “It’s very difficult to come up with the 60 votes we need.”
The SAFE Banking Act, sponsored in the House by Colorado’s own Rep. Ed Perlmutter, passed in September by a lopsided 321-103 vote in favor–but with 102 of the 103 “no” votes coming from Republican House members. We haven’t heard whether the “changes” to the legislation being suggested by avowed marijuana legalization opponent Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, are acceptable to the bill’s House sponsors. Even if they are, there’s nothing to guarantee a majority of Republican Senators would be any more favorable to passing the bill.
Because this legislation would be objectively good for a burgeoning legal industry in Colorado, we certainly would welcome its passage in the Senate, and this post is not meant to criticize the efforts of anyone working to do so. But in the case of Cory Gardner, there’s just no way to separate him from the intransigence of the Republican Senate leadership Gardner voted for. If Mitch McConnell wanted the Republican Senate to pass a pro-marijuana bill, it would happen. And in a Democratic-controlled Senate, it will happen.
In the unfortunate but likely event nothing happens on the SAFE Act, let alone any of the other more permissive marijuana bills in the hopper before November, there’s only one remedy for pro-marijuana Colorado voters. Take the longer view of the issue, and do their part to flip control of the U.S. Senate.