For those who remember the days of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, you’re about to get a strong sense of deja vu. Much like Sessions at the beginning of the Trump Administration, newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, a relatively unknown representative from Louisiana, is not a friend of the cannabis legalization movement.
An examination of Johnson’s track record on marijuana-related issues reveals a steadfast opposition to reform, even on incremental matters such as cannabis banking reform or supporting scientific research on the plant.
Johnson’s appointment came after a protracted three-week process, with the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives finally rallying behind Johnson as their nominee for speaker. This decision came after multiple GOP conference contenders failed to garner the requisite votes for the position. Johnson clinched an impressive 220 votes on the House floor, solidifying his position as the incoming Speaker.
Mike Johnson Has Opposed Even Modest Cannabis Reform
When it comes to cannabis issues, Johnson has made his position clear. “For the votes that he did cast on cannabis issues, there is a clear pattern: he’s again even modest, bipartisan reform proposals,” wrote Marijuana Moment.
As vice chair of the Republican conference, Johnson has voted against bills to safeguard banks that work with state-licensed marijuana businesses twice in both 2019 and 2021. The issue could come up again soon, as senators work to advance the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act. The act has cleared a committee vote and is now clear to go to the Senate floor. If passed there, it would go to the House.
A post on X (formerly Twitter) made by Johnson offers an idea on his thinking about cannabis. Johnson slammed Democrats for putting cannabis into a relief bill during the COVID crisis in 2020. “The bill mentions the word ‘jobs’ only 52 times—but listen, it mentions ‘cannabis’ 68 times,” he said in 2020. “I’m not being flippant here, but we’re wondering if the staff that wrote this might have been high when they put the pen to paper,” he said.
Other Stances Taken by Mike Johnson
Johnson also voted against a bill in 2019 that would have provided protection for state legal cannabis markets against any federal intervention. Cannabis remains a Schedule I illegal drug at the federal level.
He also opposed, in both 2019 and 2021, bills that would have eased restrictions on scientists who want to do studies on Schedule I substances like cannabis or psychedelics. He also voted in favor of a 2021 anti-reform measure to remove protections for universities that research cannabis.
Outside of the cannabis issue, Johnson also takes very conservative stances on other issues. He is a lawyer and former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. He played a pivotal role in congressional efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to the New York Times. He also supports a national ban on abortion.
He hosts a religious podcast with his wife and considers Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the founders of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, a mentor.