By Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
Last week, cannabis advocates were dealt another blow with the exclusion of the SAFE Banking Act (SAFE+) in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That being said, all hope is not lost—the government runs out of funding this Friday, 12/16, and members of Congress are working hard to craft an omnibus bill that may present another opportunity for SAFE+.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed their version of the NDAA — which did include the language of the SAFE Banking Act. Since then, all eyes have been on the Senate, where negotiations over the inclusion of “SAFE+” to the NDAA have been the focus. There was much discussion over what exactly the “plus” in SAFE+ would include, but there was no doubt that the HOPE Act would be a part of that, and potentially the GRAM Act. As of a few weeks ago, NCIA and other advocates were feeling cautiously optimistic about the possibility of SAFE+ being passed via the NDAA.
That was until Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor last Tuesday to specifically call out SAFE+. He said:
“House and Senate Democrats are still obstructing efforts to close out the NDAA by trying to jam in unrelated items with no relationship whatsoever to defense. We’re talking about a grab bag of miscellaneous pet priorities — making our financial system more sympathetic to illegal drugs or the phony, partisan permitting reform and name-only language that’s already failed to pass the Senate earlier this year. If Democrats wanted these controversial items so badly, they had two years to move them across the floor. Heck, they could have scheduled those matters for votes this week. But no, we’re doing more mid-level nominations, while Democrats keep threatening to take our Armed Forces hostage over those extraneous matters.
Leader McConnell even gloated about the exclusion of SAFE+ later in the week, saying, “just as Republicans insisted, just as our service members deserve, this NDAA is not getting dragged down by unrelated liberal nonsense. Good smart policies were kept in and unrelated nonsense like easier financing for illegal drugs was kept out.”
While the NDAA is slated to pass the Senate and be signed into law over the coming days, NCIA is continuing to pursue all options for passing SAFE+, including the omnibus bill that Congress is negotiating (currently) behind closed doors.
In other political news, the runoff election between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Hershel Walker (R) was held in Georgia last week, with Sen. Warnock winning. This meant that Democrats held a 51-49 majority over Republicans; that is until Sen. Kyrsten Sinema decided late last week to change her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent. Like the other two Independent Senators (Angus King [ME] and Bernie Sanders [VT]), she plans to caucus with the Democrats. Regardless, the announcement came as a surprise to many.
While the clock may be running out, NCIA won’t stop advocating for SAFE+ and other cannabis issues to be passed into law.