Exclusive Interview With Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is a champion for cannabis policy in Congress and has been since she was first elected in 2013. Gabbard received an endorsement from NORML while running for Congress, and for good reason.
Unlike some of her competitors in the 2020 election, Congresswoman Gabbard has been on the right side of history when it comes to cannabis policy for many years.
While serving in the United States House of Representatives Tulsi Gabbard has introduced or sponsored a number of cannabis reform bills. Representative Gabbard is running to become the next President of the United States and is genuinely passionate about cannabis policy.
We are honored to announce that Congresswoman Gabbard will be speaking via Skype live from New Hampshire to our attendees at our upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in San Francisco in February. We interviewed Gabbard regarding her views on cannabis policy while she is on the campaign trail. Below is what we discussed:
ICBC: What is your position on allowing states to export/import cannabis across state lines?
Congresswoman Gabbard: Voters in a growing list of states have made it clear that they want cannabis to be legal for adult-use and regulated like alcohol.
Just as alcohol can legally and safely be bought and sold via interstate commerce, so too should cannabis be allowed to be imported and exported across state lines.
California is home to the largest cannabis industry in the nation, yet researchers there had to import cannabis from Canada into California for the study that they were conducting. That makes zero sense.
If we can figure out a way to safely import cannabis from another country then we can obviously figure out a way to transfer legal cannabis from one state to another state in a safe manner.
ICBC: What is your position on social-use cannabis reform?
Congresswoman Gabbard: If someone can legally purchase cannabis from a state-regulated dispensary, legally possess it, and legally consume it, they should also have a legal setting in which to conduct that activity if someone wants to provide that setting for them in a safe manner that keeps cannabis away from children and properly helps mitigate driving under the influence.
Cannabis opponents act as if social cannabis use venues do not exist anywhere in the United States, which is not actually the case. The city of Denver passed an initiative to allow regulated social cannabis use venues, and they exist in parts of California as well.
Venues would need to be implemented and regulated properly to ensure safety and that age restriction policy is enforced. A strong, ongoing public awareness effort would need to occur as well, which could be funded by social-use license fees.
As President, I’d support giving our states and local jurisdictions the flexibility to adopt sound public policy that includes social cannabis use reform.
ICBC: What is your position on the push for social equity in the cannabis space?
Congresswoman Gabbard: Unlike most other large industries the cannabis industry is built on the suffering and persecution of millions of people. Cannabis prohibition has ruined many lives and will continue to do so until it is ended nationwide.
We must ensure that the cannabis industry rights as many prohibition wrongs as possible, and that the communities most negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition have a chance to succeed in the cannabis industry if they want to.
Public policy that encourages social equity in the cannabis industry needs to include waiving licensing fees and reserving some licenses for social equity applicants.
As President, I’d support the creation of a Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program to provide funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. I’d also direct the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.
If social equity public policy is to succeed, it needs to foster long term success for members of communities that suffered the most due to cannabis prohibition. Social equity cannabis industry licensees can’t simply exist – they need to be provided the tools and head start that will ensure that they reach the level of potential that their talent and hard work will take them to.
ICBC: What are your thoughts on politicians sincerely evolving on cannabis policy versus just pandering to voters?
Congresswoman Gabbard: Cannabis reform is very popular now, however, that was obviously not always the case. As with any political issue, candidates need to be allowed to evolve when it comes to their stance on cannabis policy.
If someone used to be opposed to cannabis reform and now sincerely wants to get on the right side of history and support reform, they should be able to do so. However, that needs to be balanced against candidates on the campaign trail that are not truly sincere in their beliefs.
When a candidate was anti-cannabis for a long time, and only changed their stance after polling on the issue became favorable, voters should obviously be skeptical.
Voters should seek out information to see what the newly-supportive candidate has done to introduce and/or promote cannabis reform legislation.
ICBC: What is the single biggest hurdle preventing the end of federal cannabis prohibition?
Congresswoman Gabbard: Our current criminal justice system puts people in prison for smoking marijuana, while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma who are responsible for the opioid-related deaths of thousands of people to walk away scot-free with their coffers full. For the last several years, I’ve called for progressive marijuana policies as part of my ongoing commitment to common sense criminal justice reform.
Most recently, I’ve introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. This legislation decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. It also requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions.
A Gallup Poll released in late October 2019 shows that 66% of Americans support recreational marijuana use. Public support will likely only increase in the years ahead. We’ve had some success moving good marijuana-related legislation in the U.S. House, but we’ve hit roadblocks in the U.S. Senate, especially with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The upcoming 2020 election could clear the biggest hurdle of ending federal cannabis prohibition by electing me as President and shaking up the make-up of the U.S. Senate to allow new Democratic Leadership to once and for all do the right thing on marijuana. Another tool that I’ll consider using is the power of Executive Orders to move the ball forward.