Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday defended the marijuana provisions in the Democrats’ most recent round of coronavirus relief, rejecting suggestions that support for the cannabis industry is unrelated to the public health crisis sweeping the country.
“I don’t agree with you that cannabis is not related to this,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “This is a therapy that has proven successful.”
Pelosi was responding to a reporter’s suggestion that Democrats and Republicans were both pushing provisions in their competing emergency stimulus bills that are extraneous to the deadly pandemic and the economic devastation that it’s caused.
The Democrats’ $3.4 trillion package, approved by the House on May 15, includes language empowering cannabis businesses and their providers — many of which have remained open during the coronavirus crisis — to work with federally backed banks and insurers.
Under current law, financial institutions can face steep penalties if they conduct business with cannabis companies, since the Controlled Substance Act classifies marijuana among the Schedule 1 drugs, which are considered to have no legitimate medical purpose.
Senate Republicans have countered with a $1.1 trillion emergency stimulus bill, which includes roughly $1.8 billion to fund a new FBI building at its current location in Washington.
Critics have pounced, accusing President Trump of using a public health crisis to advance a pet project he’s sought since he entered the White House. The FBI building is across the street from Trump’s D.C. hotel, and Democrats maintain he wants to keep it there “so that another hotel doesn’t come in there and compete with the president’s hotel,” in Pelosi’s words.
“That’s what that’s all about. That has nothing to do with the coronavirus,” she said. “So we’re going to have to come to some compromise on the legislation. I just don’t accept that there’s any equivalence in what you put forth there.”
The comments come as the parties appear nowhere close to reaching an agreement on the next round of coronavirus relief. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have met four times this week with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in search of a deal. Despite their persistence, the sides have emerged each day to say their only agreement is to disagree.
The four negotiators are expected to speak again Friday by phone.
Meanwhile, a $600 weekly subsidy in state-based unemployment benefits is set to expire at the end of the day on Friday, leading to both parties pointing fingers at the other for putting millions of beneficiaries in economic dire straights.
“We’ll see what they come back with today,” Pelosi said. “But do not accept any thought in their mind that they want to continue the $600.”