By Guy Page
Sen. Patrick Leahy accepted a $1,000 donation on November 4, 2018 from the National Cannabis Industry Association PAC, SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) reported Friday.
The donation from the Washington, DC-based organization is ticketed for the 2022 primary, according to a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) document.
The NCIA “is leading the charge to protect the legal cannabis industry, defend our state laws, and advance federal policy reforms,” its homepage says. One high-priority ‘reform’ is the SAFE (Secure and Fair Enforcement) Banking Act that “would prevent federal banking regulators from punishing banks for working with cannabis-related businesses that are obeying state laws or halting their services, taking action on loans made to those businesses, or limiting a depository institution’s access to the Deposit Insurance Fund.”
The marijuana industry needs SAFE because marijuana is a federally-prohibited drug. Federally-regulated banks may not accept deposits or make loans to an industry engaged in federally-prohibited commerce. The “SAFE” Banking Act was introduced in March 2019 by a congressman from Colorado, the first state to legalize ‘tax and regulate’ retail marijuana. The bill has not moved out of committee and has just a three percent chance of passage, according to Govtrack.us. Rep. Peter Welch was not a sponsor.
Although SAFE is unlikely to reach the Senate, the accepted contribution would appear to signal to Vermont’s Democratic Party candidates up and down the 2020 ticket that if it’s okay for their senior elected official to accept marijuana industry contributions, maybe it’s okay for them, too. If so, the Leahy contribution could be a factor in the 2020 statewide election.
Border Patrol 100-mile zone and marijuana – Leahy’s well-known dislike for the 100-mile Border Patrol stop-and-seizure zone seems at least partly motivated by concern about Border Patrol marijuana stop-and-seizures. The “Marijuana Moment” website describes a letter of concern Leahy wrote to the U.S. Comptroller General suggesting the Border Patrol has lost sight of its priorities:
“In 2017, the GAO published a report that looked at, among other things, the Border Patrol strategy of placing and utilizing immigration checkpoints generally between 25 and 100 miles from the border,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) wrote in a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro. “As a result of this review, the GAO found that 40 percent of checkpoint seizures were from U.S. citizens for one ounce or less of marijuana…..“How frequently does the agency analyze trends in drug seizures and apprehensions to evaluate its priorities at each checkpoint?”
Both Leahy and Sen. Bernie Sanders were recognized by a pro-legalization Forbes Magazine columnist with an “honorable mention” for their support of the marijuana industry. (Presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Corey Booker made the top five.)
Neither Sen. Sanders nor Rep. Welch have received any marijuana-industry contributions, according to the SAM report, which “seeks to expose elected officials who pocket money from the marijuana industry and then support policies that would benefit the pot profiteers, such as granting the industry investor access or tying the hands of the FDA from being able to have even basic oversight of the industry.”
The top five Congressional recipients of marijuana industry contributions are: Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) – $103,500; Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY) – $76,800; Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) – $50,300; Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) – $32,600; and Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH) – $29,700.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.