Hard-right conservative Mike Johnson, chosen by House Republicans on Wednesday to be the chamber’s new speaker, has been a staunch opponent of marijuana reform in Congress.
The elevation of the socially conservative Louisiana Republican might bode ill for long-awaited marijuana-reform bills such as the SAFER Banking Act, which passed a key committee in the Democratic-controlled Senate in September.
Other speaker candidates who had previously vied to replace ousted Kevin McCarthy, including Jim Jordan of Ohio and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, had similar records.
First elected to the House in 2016, Johnson has an F rating from NORML, the Washington DC-based marijuana advocacy group.
Johnson voted against the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act that President Joe Biden signed into law late last year.
He also twice voted against the SAFE Banking Act, the predecessor to the SAFER Banking Act, in 2019 and 2021.
Despite repeated passage of the banking legislation in the House under Democratic control, the lower chamber will need to pass SAFER Banking in some form for the bill to reach Biden’s desk this time around.
In the past, Johnson, a staunch Christian, has opposed marijuana legalization on religious grounds.
In addition, Johnson – whom former President Donald Trump heartily endorsed as his preferred choice to lead the House – also voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
Johnson’s opposition to marijuana reform might signal possible trouble for the Biden administration’s efforts to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 3 substance – the same category as Tylenol with codeine – from Schedule 1.
In October 2022, declaring the country’s marijuana laws “failed policy,” Biden directed federal agencies to review marijuana’s status under the Controlled Substances Act.
Moving marijuana to Schedule 3 would solve most cannabis businesses’ federal tax woes as the controversial Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code would no longer apply.
Johnson has also spoken against legalizing medical marijuana.
As the new House speaker, the congressman has a long list of priorities before the House can turn to marijuana banking.
Pressing business for Congress includes a foreign-aid package that includes help for Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war as well as a spending bill to avoid a looming government shutdown.
A temporary spending bill McCarthy managed to pass in September expires Nov. 17.
Chris Roberts can be reached at email@example.com.