WASHINGTON – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi defended a provision in the $3 trillion Democratic stimulus bill that would allow legal cannabis businesses to access banking services Friday, while attacking “misrepresentation” in Republicans’ proposed package.
Asked to respond to the accusation that the cannabis language is not “directly related” to the coronavirus response, the California Democrat said she does not agree.
“This is a therapy that has proven successful,” Pelosi said at a press conference.
Pelosi did not cite any studies or health officials that have said cannabis may be a treatment for the coronavirus. Researchers have started to explore the possibility of its uses in treating lung inflammation, Forbes reported earlier this month, though no studies have yet shown any definitive benefits of cannabis use in treating COVID-19. It is legal for use in treating other medical conditions in many states, however.
The Food and Drug Administration has also sent warning letters to companies making claims about health benefits of cannabidoil products in treating coronavirus.
The Democrats’ Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, includes funding for another round of stimulus checks for Americans, aid for state and local governments and billions for housing and food assistance.
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Included in Democrats’ package is the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, a bill already passed through the House that would prohibit federal financial regulators from penalizing banks and depository institutions that provide services to legal cannabis-related businesses. It would also provide for the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on minority and women cannabis business owners.
The HEROES Act notes that the cannabis provision would allow “access to financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers” while limiting the amount of cash handled at those businesses.
Cannabis industry leaders have said their businesses are being hit by the pandemic. Though they are deemed “essential” businesses and allowed to continue operating during lockdowns in many places, they are ineligible for Small Business Administration programs designed to help small businesses, according to the National Cannabis Industry Association.
“It’s critically important that essential cannabis workers are not exposed to unnecessary health risks due to outdated federal banking regulations,” executive director Aaron Smith said in a statement commending the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act.
Pelosi pushed back on the idea that the cannabis language was akin to the $1.75 billion provision in Republicans’ coronavirus relief proposal that was inserted by the White House to rebuild the FBI headquarters in downtown Washington.
The Republicans’ $1 trillion package would also include direct payments to Americans, and focuses on assistance to businesses and schools but stops short of aid for housing, food or state and local governments
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The FBI inclusion was criticized by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, but White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said it was a “pressing need” and argued the coronavirus relief packages are a “funding mechanism” with various proposals not directly related to the pandemic.
“I’m opposed to non-germane amendments,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Tuesday, stopping short of saying he would try to remove the FBI building item from the bill. McConnell cited “marijuana studies” as another unrelated inclusion in relief legislation that he is opposed to.
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Democrats accused President Donald Trump of being self-serving with the FBI provision because it would avoid the possibility that the current site of the building would be bought by a hospitality industry that could compete with Trump International Hotel.
Pelosi said Friday that the cannabis measure “is by no means of the caliber of money or misrepresentation that remodeling the federal building is, for over $1 billion so that another hotel doesn’t come in there and compete with the president’s hotel.”
“That’s what that’s all about,” she said. “That has nothing to do with the coronavirus.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Pelosi’s Friday defense of the cannabis provision was “incredibly irresponsible.”
“Pelosi just doubled down on her $3 trillion dollar cannabis legislation, falsely claiming that it’s a proven therapy for coronavirus. Hey Nancy, let’s focus on the pandemic. Not pot,” McCarthy tweeted.
Democrats and Republicans are at a standstill on negotiations for the next coronavirus relief package, as the Senate adjourns until Monday and the House until Tuesday.
“We’re going to have to come to some compromise on the legislation,” Pelosi told the reporter Friday. “I just don’t accept that there’s any equivalence in what you’ve put forth there.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Pelosi defends cannabis banking provision in COVID-19 bill