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: Mitch McConnell criticizes year-end push for cannabis banking bill, and it’s left out of big defense package

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell emphasized Tuesday afternoon that he didn’t support year-end efforts to pass a cannabis banking bill and unrelated legislation targeting permits for energy projects.

The Kentucky Republican’s criticism isn’t a good sign for advocates focused on those measures, though 10 GOP senators still could buck their leader and join with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle to vote in favor of them.

The two issues were dealt a further setback later Tuesday, as key congressional committees released compromise text for the National Defense Authorization Act that didn’t include the cannabis banking bill or permitting reform. The NDAA had been seen as a possible vehicle for them.

Ahead of that release, McConnell addressed maneuvering over the defense package in a floor speech.

“House and Senate Democrats are still obstructing efforts to close out the NDAA by trying to jam in unrelated items with no relationship to defense,” the Senate’s top Republican said.

“We’re talking about a grab bag of miscellaneous pet priorities — like making our financial system more sympathetic to illegal drugs, or the phony, partisan permitting-‘reform’-in-name-only language that already failed to pass the Senate this year.”

The bill that aims to protect financial institutions that work with the marijuana industry is known as “SAFE Banking Plus” because it’s expected to include other provisions such as some involving criminal-justice reforms. Analysts have said it has a decent or even strong chance of becoming reality by year’s end, but some viewed Tuesday’s developments as bearish.

“In our view, the NDAA represented the most likely path for SAFE Banking + to being enacted. Its absence now leaves year-end funding or a standalone bill as itsonly avenues for passage,” said Benjamin Salisbury, research director at Height Capital Markets, in a note. He gives the cannabis banking bill just a 35% or 40% chance of becoming reality in 2022.

On the other hand, Cowen analyst Jaret Seiberg said he always had viewed a year-end omnibus funding bill as the most likely vehicle.

“To us, the SAFE Act is moving along the path that we expected. There is still risk that it won’t pass. But nothing that has occurred so far is enough for us to reduce our 75% expectation that the SAFE Act becomes law this year,” Seiberg said in a note.

Related: Sunburn Cannabis CEO bullish on SAFE Banking passage

Meanwhile, energy permitting reform has been a key issue for Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has continued to push for such reform after his proposed package foundered in September. He’s aiming to speed permits for natural-gas
NG00,
+1.66%

pipelines and other energy
XLE,
+0.53%

projects.

Cannabis stocks, as tracked by the AdvisorShares Pure U.S. Cannabis ETF
MSOS,
-7.20%
,
had jumped Monday, with credit going to hopes around the cannabis banking bill. But they plunged Tuesday and were falling further on Wednesday.

See: Cannabis stocks rally Monday on fresh talk of including banking rules in military spending measure

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