Some in Wyoming still aren’t convinced that U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis is as opposed to the legalization of marijuana as she says she is.
The recent skepticism comes in response to her support of the SAFER Banking Act, legislation that would ensure all businesses have access to banking deposit accounts, insurance and other financial services. That includes allowing financial institutions to provide cannabis businesses access to banking services such as bank accounts, credit cards and checks without fear of retribution by federal regulators.
A division has developed among those who support the bipartisan bill because it would apply to cannabis businesses in states where its use is legal.
Republicans like Lummis and Sen. Steve Daines of Montana have championed the bill because it ensures that firearms manufacturers and energy industries cannot be targeted in the future through Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) type initiatives that restrict their access to bank accounts and loans.
What About Weed?
Lummis told Cowboy State Daily earlier this month that despite the criticism she’s received over it, the bill “does nothing to legalize marijuana.”
Although that may be true, Wapiti resident Richard Jones said the legislation unnecessarily opens up a door for regulating a marijuana industry that does not yet exist in Wyoming. Jones is one of the lead organizers of Wyoming Citizens Against Normalization (WY CAN), an anti-marijuana group.
“Anything you do to regulate or add something in there only opens the door and admits that it’s normal,” Jones said. “You can’t get any more restrictive than having a ban.”
Democrats that support the SAFER Act like Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have touted the financial safe harbor it provides for that state’s legal marijuana industry. The legislation is almost universally supported by the marijuana industry, which is largely prohibited from using conventional banks.
Daines has also expressed support for the pro-marijuana aspects of the bill, but Lummis has not.
Last month, the Senate Banking Committee of which Lummis is a member voted to pass the SAFER Banking Act by a vote of 14-9.
Earlier this month, Washington, D.C.-based group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) Action sent out a robotext to thousands of Wyoming residents, accusing Lummis of working with New York Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to legalize marijuana and cut away Second Amendment rights.
Schumer sent out a “dear colleague” letter to the 99 other members of the Senate, saying passing the SAFER Act was one of his top priorities for this session.
In an op-ed in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle last week, Lummis described the texts as “baseless mistruths” made in “an attempt to mislead the people of Wyoming and misrepresent the work I am doing each and every day on behalf of our great state.”
Luke Niforatos, executive vice president of SAM, told Cowboy State Daily his group sent the texts to expose Lummis’ partnership with Schumer and her efforts on the bill.
“Given her state has no legal marijuana industry, we think Wyoming voters would be surprised their Senator is leading the fight to federally legitimize this industry,” he said.
‘Money Laundering For The Marijuana Industry’
WY CAN has drafted a response to Lummis.
“With this context, it is striking that Senator Lummis, who claims to be against marijuana, has ‘worked tirelessly’ on a bill that has been championed by the banks and marijuana industry for years,” Jones wrote.
SAM has similarly said the SAFER Act would “radically increase investment” in the marijuana industry, accelerating its transformation into a new version of Big Tobacco.
NBC News reports that federal officials in former President Donald Trump’s administration said that in states where recreational marijuana became legal like California, Colorado and Washington, a lack of enforcement provided cover for transnational criminal organizations willing to invest big money to buy or rent property to achieve even bigger returns.
Jones said any state that accepts tax revenue from the sale of marijuana is profiting from a federal crime.
“The states in all legal effect are money laundering for the marijuana industry,” he said.
Jones believes the legalization of marijuana results in more traffic fatalities, increased rates of youth substance addiction, and spikes in marijuana-related emergency department visits.
It’s a passionate issue for Jones, who has had two close family members imprisoned for dealing the substance, and has a wife who works in treating substance abuse.
He finds the ESG protections touted by Lummis in the SAFER Act to be a red herring, doesn’t believe this bill goes far enough to prevent the legalization of marijuana and believes the Wyoming senator should work to prevent its legalization at all levels.
“She’s deflecting and getting away from the main reason and the pressure behind the SAFER Banking Act, which is the marijuana industry,” he said. “She got called out and she’s kind of scrambling sideways on stuff.
“She’s said one thing, but her actions have been something different.”
In her op-ed, Lummis said she personally opposes marijuana and does not support making it legal at the federal level. She believes it is an issue that should be decided at a state level.
Lummis told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that she would not support any effort to make marijuana legal in Wyoming. A few attempts have been made in recent years to get marijuana legalization on a Wyoming ballot as a referendum, but none have received enough signatures to qualify.
“The people of Wyoming have spoken loud and clear that they do not support legalizing marijuana, and I am working to ensure the Biden administration cannot go around the will of the people by changing the classification of marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule III drug,” she said.
Wyoming is one of four states to not have some form of legal marijuana on the books. Although there hasn’t been a single example of a state revoking marijuana rights after passing them into law, Jones said efforts have been made to try and do this and some local-level municipalities have banned legal sales of the substance. According to Westword Magazine in 2019, only around 70 of Colorado’s roughly 270 cities and towns had some form of pot sale, about 28.5%.
“You can’t tell me there’s overwhelming support for this,” Jones said.
According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration has signaled it will follow a recommendation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Substances Act. If approved, this would significantly lower federal marijuana penalties.
Lummis described these lowering of charges in her op-ed as a politically driven move made by President Joe Biden “to cater to the far left in his party ahead of the 2024 presidential election.”
“I do not think such a substantial change in law should be made by President Joe Biden and unelected bureaucrats in Washington,” she wrote.
She also recently introduced the Deferring Executive Authority Act to ensure Biden or any other future presidential administration cannot circumvent Congress to legalize marijuana federally.
What About Gun Control?
Within the robotext, SAM also criticized Lummis for voting for the SAFER Act when it contained language it believed allowed “de-banking” of gun manufacturers and mentioned that Second Amendment advocacy group Gun Owners of America (GOA) has come out against it.
Although GOA did originally come out against the bill, a representative for the group told Cowboy State Daily that Lummis actively worked to add protections and eliminate certain loopholes from the bill that were viewed as being anti-Second Amendment.
Spokesperson Mark Jones also vehemently denied any connection with the texts and said his group sent a cease-and-desist letter to SAM ordering the lobbying group to stop mentioning GOA in its lobbying schemes that it considers “unprecedented.”
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.