The Word 'Cannabis' Appears More Than 'Job' in the Democrats' New Stimulus Bill

Republicans are not happy with the marijuana provisions included in the $3 trillion coronavirus bill introduced by House Democrats this week, calling out lawmakers for using the word cannabis more than job in the economic relief package.

"The bold new policy from Washington Democrats that will kick coronavirus to the curb and save American families from this crisis—here it is, here it is: new annual studies on diversity and inclusion within the cannabis industry," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday during a floor speech.

"The word cannabis appears in the bill 68 times. More times than the word job and four times as many as the word hire," McConnell added, arguing that the bill is a "totally unserious effort" that's unlikely to become law.

Stimulus Bill cannabis
The word cannabis appears 68 times in the new stimulus bill. OpenRangeStock/Getty

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which will come to a vote in the House on Friday, includes a provision that would protect banks that service marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators. The measure includes language requiring research on minority-owned and women-owned marijuana companies.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act was passed last year but has been in limbo in the Senate. It has five Republican co-sponsors in the Senate, including Cory Gardner of Colorado and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Marijuana advocates have also been pushing lawmakers to extend access to federal Small Business Administration relief programs to cannabis businesses in coronavirus legislation. But those measures didn't make it into the HEROES Act.

McConnell's gripe with the marijuana measures has been echoed by several Republican lawmakers.

Representative Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) said it's "suspicious" when more language is devoted to marijuana than jobs.

"You know something is suspicious when the word 'cannabis' is used 68 times—more than 'job' or 'jobs' combined—in an economic stimulus bill. I'm not sure what they were smoking, but whatever socialist euphoria they're feeling will fade fast when it arrives in the Senate," he tweeted.

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) tweeted that "@SpeakerPelosi's $3 trillion bill is a liberal wish list that's dead on arrival in the Senate. When your "jobs" bill mentions cannabis more than jobs, there's a problem."

Unlike the last four coronavirus relief measures, the HEROES Act isn't a product of bipartisan negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has defended the ambitious package, arguing that "we must think big for the people now, because if we don't it will cost more in lives and livelihood later. Not acting is the most expensive course."

Some of the biggest provisions in the bill include $500 billion in aid for state governments, a $200 billion "Heroes' Fund" to ensure that essential workers receive hazard pay, an extension of unemployment benefits, another round of stimulus checks, assistance to the United States Postal Service and funding for election security.

senate republicans weekly luncheon may 2020
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to members of the press as Senate Majority Whip John Thune and Senator John Barrasso listen after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon on May 12. Getty/Alex Wong

But Republicans say that the bill is "dead on arrival" in the Senate even if it passes in the House on Friday.

"What you've seen in the House from Nancy is not something designed to deal with reality but designed to deal with aspirations. This is not a time for aspirational legislation. This is a time for practical response to the coronavirus pandemic," McConnell told reporters earlier this week.

Correction (5/15/2020, 3:30 p.m.): A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Senator Bill Cassidy as a member of the House of Representatives. The story has been changed accordingly.