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Mitch McConnell mocks Nancy Pelosi over House speaker’s comment about coronavirus and marijuana

August 4, 2020 GMT

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took issue Tuesday with Democrats across Capitol Hill pushing to include protections for marijuana businesses in the next coronavirus relief bill.

Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, also called out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the California Democrat’s recent explanation for wanting the protections in the relief package.

Calling it a “far-left wish list,” Mr. McConnell’s latest comments further suggests the House package containing the protections is unlikely to survive in the GOP-led Senate.

At the center of the dispute are conflicting laws making it risky for banks to work with marijuana businesses in states that have legalized pot in face of federal prohibition.

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The House accordingly passed a bill last year that says in part that federal regulators may not “prohibit, penalize or otherwise discourage” a financial institution from working with state-legal marijuana businesses, and that “proceeds from a transaction conducted by a cannabis-related legitimate business shall not be considered as proceeds from an unlawful activity.”

Unable to clear Congress as a stand-alone bill, Democrats tried once more in May by including the banking protections in a coronavirus relief bill that has since passed the House the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act.

Discussing the bill Friday, Mrs. Pelosi objected to a reporter who suggested the marijuana banking protections are not “directly related” to countering the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t agree with you that cannabis is not related to this,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “This is a therapy that has proven successful.”

Mrs. Pelosi did not elaborate further, making it unclear if she was referring to marijuana as being successful at treating COVID-19 or was speaking more broadly about its potential therapeutic benefits.

Nonetheless, Mr. McConnell subsequently mocked Mrs. Pelosi on the Senate floor Tuesday and jokingly suggested she notify the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Speaker Pelosi is still agitating for strange, new special interest carve-outs for the marijuana industry and even claiming they are COVID-related,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“She said that, with respect to this virus, marijuana is ‘a therapy that has proven successful.’ You can’t make this up,” he said. “I hope she shares her breakthrough with Dr. Fauci.”

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Spokespeople for Mrs. Pelosi did not immediately return requests for comment on her reaction to Mr. McConnell’s remark and clarification regarding her original comment.

Marijuana is classified under federal law as a Schedule 1 drug, placing it alongside heroin in a category reserved for substances with no medical value that are easily abused.

Thirty-three states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Eleven of those have also legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes among adults.

No cure is currently known for COVID-19. Worldwide, more than 18 million people out of the planet’s 7.8 billion have tested positive for the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.