Here’s an excerpt
“I used to think that in civics, in government, you need 50 percent plus one to pass legislation,” Murphy says. “Not exactly. You need one, plus 50 percent.” That one, says Murphy, is a committee chairman.
In order to get a bill to the floor for a full Senate vote, it must first pass the House, then get seen by a Senate committee. However, there are absolutely no guarantees that a committee will ever hear a bill. That’s completely up to the committee chairman.
Senators Crapo and Graham are chairmen of the Senate Banking and Senate Judiciary committees, respectively — the two committees that have the highest chance of seeing standalone cannabis legislation in this congress.
Take, for example, the SAFE Banking Act, which is expected to pass the House by a strong margin. But because the bill deals with banking, it will have to pass through the Senate Banking Committee, which has been led by Crapo since 2016.
Crapo’s home state of Idaho is one of only three in the nation with no legal marijuana; not even CBD for limited medical use. The state has the second-largest Mormon population in the nation, and the Mormon Church — of which Crapo is a member — has taken a stance on marijuana that is cautiously pro-medical but strongly anti-recreational. A 2018 poll showed that 79% of Idahoans support medical marijuana, but a majority are still against legalization for recreational use. In an attempt to sway Crapo to consider the legislation, the Marijuana Policy Project says they are currently gathering signatures to put a marijuana legalization bill on the 2020 ballot there, in hopes of showing Crapo how his constituents feel.
“I’d say the key players right now are the citizens of Idaho — Crapo’s constituents,” says Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act. “Ultimately it’s up to the chairman and committee leadership to get it to the floor if that’s what they want.
Until very recently, the chairman and his office avoided taking a hard stance on the SAFE Banking Act by arguing that cannabis’ Schedule I status on the Controlled Substances Act should be dealt with first. But on July 16th, a hearing popped up on the Banking Committee calendar titled “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives,” to be held in late July. Sen. Crapo’s Senate Banking committee, turns out, has scheduled a hearing on the SAFE Banking Act, officially pulling it into the Senate sphere of influence before it has even formally passed through the House of Representatives.