Mitch McConnell and Republicans use cannabis to avoid helping vulnerable Americans during COVID-19

May 15, 2020

Republicans turned cannabis into a new talking point this week, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell took to the floor of the Senate this week to disparage the Democrats' new coronavirus stimulus package, referring to it, in part as a grab bag of liberal giveaways. At the heart of the Kentucky senator’s complaints were passages in the bill meant to help bolster the cannabis industry at a time when pot shops and dispensaries are struggling.

“The bold new policy from Washington Democrats that will kick the coronavirus to the curb and save American families from this crisis,” said McConnell in a faux-dramatic fashion while not wearing a face mask on the Senate floor. “New annual studies on diversity and inclusion within the cannabis industry.”

“That’s what’s so remarkable,” said the Majority Leader. “House Democrats had a blank slate to write anything wanted to define the modern Democratic Party, any vision for the society they wanted, and here’s what they chose: tax hikes on small businesses, giveaways to blue state millionaires, government checks for illegal immigrants and sending diversity detectives to inspect the pot industry.”

The diversity study is a part of the broader SAFE Banking Act that was passed with bipartisan support last year in the House. It is a pet project of several senators, including Colorado’s Cory Gardner, who is facing an uphill battle to reelection in November.

But at a time when millions of Americans are struggling, with unemployment nearing 15 percent and nearly 90,000 people dead from COVID-19, many on the right, including the president, refuse to discuss additional stimulus help for those who need it. Instead, cannabis is now the main talking point for Republicans in an effort to distract the public.

“The word cannabis appears in this bill 68 times,” said McConnell. “More times than the word job and four times as many as the word hire. Maybe it’s best if House Democrats focus on cannabis studies and leave economics to the rest of us.”

McConnell took his traveling roadshow on Fox News this week, where he spoon-fed the same talking points to President Trump’s 30 percent. Meanwhile, many on the right repeated McConnell’s words on social media, turning an essential conversation about the necessity for federal stimulus into an unserious razzing competition.

“Speaker Pelosi’s $3 trillion bill is a liberal wish list that’s dead on arrival in the Senate,” tweeted, Sen. Bill Cassidy. “When your “jobs” bill mentions cannabis more than jobs, there’s a problem.”

But as McConnell and the rest of the Right Wing mock the cannabis industry, a recent study shows that if federal stimulus were to flow into dispensaries and other canna-businesses, it would save thousands of jobs. According to a recent report by Leafly and the National Cannabis Roundtable, who surveyed 484 cannabis retailers, COVID-19 relief from the government would save 10,000 jobs.

“Before this crisis began, the cannabis industry represented the fastest-growing jobs market in the US, despite restrictions on access to banking services,” Saphira Galoob, NCR Executive Director, was quoted as saying in Leafly.

“Our businesses are going to be critical to the country’s economic recovery, and we are asking to be treated like every other small business in the country,” she added. “Not only should cannabis businesses have access to economic stimulus and relief funds, they should have access to fundamental banking services through the SAFE Banking Act.”

As of Friday afternoon, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats were close to passing the bill, known as the HEROES Act, despite threats from Republicans to push it aside and promises from the president to veto it should it make it to his desk.

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