On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took media questions about the optimistically named HEROES Act, the House Democrats’ new relief bill for the nation’s coronavirus woes. One question was about a 26-section portion of the bill dedicated to cannabis.
The reporter observed that Republicans on Capitol Hill had gotten a lot of grief for including in their relief bill a number of items not directly related to coronavirus-induced economic and social problems. The reporter cited funding for a new FBI building, for example, and funding for stretches of border wall.
In light of that criticism, the reporter pointed out to Pelosi, “There’s some things in your bill that’s not directly related to COVID, like they’re talking about cannabis or the SALT [state and local tax] reduction.”
The reporter asked, “Are those things that you’re willing to also strip out of the bill?”
Pelosi bristled at comparing those Democratic bill items to spending on the FBI building, averring that “remodeling the federal building is for over a billion dollars, so that another hotel doesn’t come in there and compete with the president’s hotel. That’s what that’s all about. That has nothing to do with cannab—with the coronavirus.”
But she also said she doesn’t agree “that cannabis is not related to this. This is a therapy that has proven successful.”
That’s probably news to many, as there’s no evidence that cannabis — or, more accurately, its CBD derivative — has been proven successful. Rather, it has shown potential in a handful of tests to alleviate the “cytokine storms” induced in lung cells by the coronavirus, and researchers have recommended that it be studied further.
The recommendation is of recent vintage, and a CBS report on it in July 2020 summarized it as hopeful but by no means demonstrated: “Experts from the University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute are recommending that scientists study the anti-inflammatory properties in CBD as a potential treatment for lung inflammation caused by the coronavirus.”
According to CBS, “There is no scientific evidence that cannabis or its compounds can help with COVID-19 specifically, but in a peer-reviewed article in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, the authors said further research is needed to understand if CBD can help patients infected by the virus.”
CBS interviewed Emily Earlenbaugh, a specialty contributor to Forbes, who cautioned that “given the early stages of this research,” she would “‘definitely express caution’ against using cannabis as a treatment for COVID-19. She said some researchers have warned using the drug early on in the infection stages could cause negative side effects.”
Said Earlenbaugh: “We’re pretty far away from human research that could really definitively answer those questions for us.”
In contrast to her unfounded endorsement of cannabis, Pelosi “blasted” President Trump in May for taking hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a precaution to ward off symptoms of COVID-19.
As Politico reported at the time, “Pelosi said Monday that it was ‘not a good idea’ to take the controversial drug because it can pose a risk for people with heart conditions and he is ‘morbidly obese.’”
The jury is still out on HCQ, but unlike CBD from cannabis, it has been tested in multiple studies as a treatment for COVID-19, and has shown positive results in some controlled tests, as well as receiving the endorsement of thousands of practicing physicians who have prescribed it for COVID patients.
In any case, the emphasis in the cannabis portion of the HEROES Act is on “safe banking,” not on the use of cannabis or its derivatives for coronavirus therapy. CNSNews cites the key passage of the bill here (emphasis added): “The purpose of this section is to increase public safety by ensuring access to financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers and reducing the amount of cash as such businesses.”
A cynic might assume this is a measure requested by state-level Democrats, who are tired of cash marijuana businesses evading taxes on the excuse that federal banking laws are unfriendly to them.
But surely, given Pelosi’s stellar record of philosophical consistency on cannabis and HCQ, as on so many other issues, only a cynic would assume that.