Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Hawaii’s Second District. She previously served on the Honolulu City Council, and prior to that at age 21, was the youngest person ever elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature. Tulsi has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for nearly 15 years, was deployed twice to the Middle East, and continues to serve as a Major.

A rising political star, Representative Gabbard is an amazing ally to cannabis, hemp and drug policy reformers. Ahead of her welcoming video presentation for the attendees of the International Cannabis Business Conference in Kauai,Hawaiʻi, I had the honor of asking Congresswoman Gabbard a few questions and she was gracious enough to take some time to answer them.

  1. Anthony Johnson: A common complaint about politicians is that they are too scripted and unwilling to take bold stances that truly reform the status quo. You, on the other hand, are willing to speak truth to power and challenge entrenched special interests. What are some factors that have influenced such a political philosophy?

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: It’s about serving the people of Hawai’i and this country, and working for their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of our planet. Unfortunately, too often our political leadership is more focused on partisanship and power plays, than they are about doing what’s right. This needs to change.

  1. What are some things that led you to introduce a bill to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level?

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: For years, our outdated policies on marijuana have had a devastating impact in my home state of Hawaiʻi, and across the country. They have turned everyday Americans into criminals, torn families apart, and wasted huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for nonviolent marijuana charges. In addition, the contradictions in state and federal law have also created confusion and uncertainty for our local businesses that affect their bottom line and ability to operate, ultimately hurting our economy. HR1227 would make these long overdue, common sense changes by removing marijuana from the Federal Schedule of Controlled Substances

  1. Hawai’i has made some progressive reforms on medical cannabis recently. The state has even started a cashless system for dispensaries, alleviating some of the problems associated with the unfortunate lack of banking options and the qualified out-of-state patients will be allowed to utilize Hawai’ian dispensaries next year. What are the chances that Congress can take the important step of legalizing banking access for state-regulated cannabis businesses?

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: The problem now hinges on FDIC restrictions that prevent financial institutions from doing business with the cannabis industry or any other illegal substance on the Federal Schedule of Controlled Substances. The bipartisan legislation I’ve introduced, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act (H.R.1227), would decriminalize marijuana and take it off this list, freeing up banks to do business with the cannabis industry. Right now we have bipartisan support behind the bill —10 Democrats, and 5 Republicans —but we have a lot more work to do to pass this important legislation into law.

If you’re reading this, you can help by asking your Member of Congress to sign on to the bill. To find your Representative, click here:https://www.house.gov/

  1. You’ve talked about how decriminalizing marijuana would also help fight the opioid epidemic. Can you explain how would it help?  

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: The opioid epidemic is killing an average of 91 Americans every single day, and demands our immediate attention. Studies have found a correlation in states that have legalized medical marijuana with a drop in addiction rates and opioid abuse deaths, some by over 20%. While more research on this needs to be done, this is clearly one major action that can be taken to help address this crisis.

  1. How can people stay engaged with your political agenda?

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Connect with me on social media. I run my own Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages:

You can also sign up to receive email updates from my office or visit my website, gabbard.house.gov where I post regular updates on important votes and other issues.

Thank you so much for your time, and your great work on behalf of your constituents, Representative Gabbard.