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After weeks of bureaucratic chaos, the U.S. House of Representatives finally has a new Speaker—and it may be bad news for cannabis advocates.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) was elected unanimously as Speaker of the House by Republicans this week, returning some semblance of normalcy to Congress. The lawmaker has consistently voted against cannabis reform during his tenure, twice saying “nay” to the SAFE Banking Act.
The new Speaker opposed legalizing medical marijuana in his home state of Louisiana as well as the federal Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act. He has reportedly spoken out against medical marijuana, citing religious reasons.
Meanwhile, the SAFER Banking Act recently cleared a key Senate committee, heading for a full floor vote. With widespread support on both sides of the political aisle and previous passing in the House, the bill may proceed.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, believes that bipartisan support for certain marijuana bills will supersede Speaker Johnson’s personal beliefs.
“In the words of John Boehner, there is a tradition of speakers who evolve on the issue of cannabis,” Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) said in a statement, as reported by Marijuana Moment. “While I do not know if this is going to happen anytime soon with Speaker Johnson, his commitment to an open process and the growing support we have for SAFE Banking and the Veterans Equal Access Act makes me optimistic that progress can be made this Congress.”
However, the conversations around rescheduling cannabis are another story. With Speaker Johnson opposing reform and a laundry list of priorities for lawmakers to sort out, including the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Congress may delay cannabis reform altogether.
The same goes for the Farm Bill, which was due for renewal this year. The bill offers guidance for the emerging hemp industry and many expected updates on the legality of hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta-8 and HHC.
While it remains to be seen whether the newly minted Speaker will play a pivotal role in potential federal marijuana legalization, the speculation is taking off. Only time will tell how the cards will fall, and in a major election cycle, it could be a battle to the finish line.