Democrats Delay Defense Bill To Attach Marijuana Reform

On Monday, the House Rules Committee was scheduled to take up the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but they have delayed the vote to attach unrelated marijuana reform to the bill. Chairman Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) announced the package delay and said the “committee remains ready to take it up as soon as the text is finalized.” The NDAA has been a must-pass legislation for the past 62 years.

Massive conflicts abound in the NDAA among Republicans and Democrats regarding the military’s vaccine mandate. Lately, debates on marijuana reform inclusion have surfaced in the halls of Congress. Democrat Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been a huge advocate for incorporating the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act into the NDAA.

The SAFE Banking Act would allow easier access to financing for state-licensed marijuana business owners. Although smaller banks have seen a spike in business relations with license holders, big banks do not usually allow any cannabis capital relations since it remains a Schedule 1 drug. Credit card companies typically deny access to marijuana business owners too. The bill would also grant widespread state expungement of past marijuana convictions in legalized states.

A U.S. Department of Justice memo issued this year described complications that could potentially result from the SAFE Banking Act. The DOJ issued growing concern about the impact the bill would bring to law enforcement investigations and prosecutions. The bill also raises questions on how to handle money laundering that comes from the legal cannabis business. On Monday, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) met with the DOJ to discuss the growing concerns.

The SAFE Banking Act has a negligible impact on the nation’s defense — if any. But Democrats must include as much legislation into the NDAA as they can before the GOP takes over, even if the bill is unrelated. Republican control of the next Congress will begin on January 3.