A veteran of the Iraq War, Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard was a rising star in Democratic politics before she resigned as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to wholeheartedly back the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, a darling of progressives (and many cannabis legalization supporters). Gabbard could have kept her head down, stuck to the usual political script and continued her upward trajectory among the Democratic establishment. However, Gabbard has shown that she isn’t the usual politician that sticks to poll-driven, focus-grouped talking points designed to secure the 50.01% victory.

Congresswoman Gabbard has proven that she is authentic and unafraid to speak truth to power, whether it is backing the insurgent campaign of Senator Sanders, supporting the legalization of cannabis or criticizing the Drug War. I was fortunate enough to ask Rep. Gabbard a few questions ahead of her welcoming message to attendees of the International Cannabis Business Conference in Kauai, Hawaii, this weekend, and she was also just interviewed by the great cannabis blog, Smell the Truth, where she discussed, among other things, the unnecessary stigmas surrounding cannabis legalization and how we can combat it:

For years, Big Pharma has played a major role in preventing cannabis research by lobbying Congress for more stringent and outdated cannabis regulation laws, as well as partnering with Tobacco and Alcohol special interest groups to fund anti-legalization campaigns. This has led to the continuation of our outdated policy that classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug (along with heroin) and made it nearly impossible for medical experts and scientific researchers to fully explore the use of cannabis in treating a number of health conditions. It has also fueled and perpetuated the stigma surrounding marijuana, making it harder to enact change at all levels of our government.

In order to address the stigma that currently exists, we must also do more to highlight that this is a criminal justice issue. The reality is, whether or not any individual chooses to consume cannabis is irrelevant. The important question is, should we really be sending people to jail and turning them into criminals for using a substance that is far less dangerous and harmful than alcohol? The answer is no. The fiscal and social impacts of our current policy, are having devastating effects on individuals and our communities and are only perpetuating the problem.

SMT’s Oscar Pascual also asked Rep. Gabbard about the veteran community’s push to implement sensible cannabis laws:

The Republican co-lead on H.R. 1227, Rep. Tom Garrett, is a fellow Army veteran and a former prosecutor, and our work together as veterans to advocate for this legislation speaks to how important it is to our brothers and sisters who have worn the uniform. With many of our wounded warriors coming home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and other visible and invisible wounds of war, it’s critical that we approach their treatment options from a place of compassion and pragmatism. The widespread devastation of the opioid crisis, particularly within our veteran community, speaks to why we must open the doors to alternatives like medical marijuana, rather than continuing to rely on highly addictive pain prescriptions that ultimately worsen the suffering of our veterans.

SMT’s entire interview with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is certainly worth reading. It is refreshing to have a fresh voice in Congress standing up for common sense cannabis and drug policies. The cannabis community should continue to rally around Representative Gabbard and join Team Tulsi (#TeamTulsi).

And if you are in the cannabis industry, or thinking of joining, and can make it to beautiful Kauai this weekend, the International Cannabis Business Conference is the place to be. In addition to Rep. Gabbard’s message, the ICBC keeps it bipartisan with a video interview with Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and the entire agenda is filled with important cannabis business knowledge. Get your tickets now, before prices go up