Q&A: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard on the future of marijuana legalization

November 27, 2017
In The News

Q&A: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard on the future of marijuana legalization

Now in her third term in the US House of Representatives, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has become a major proponent of marijuana legislation.

After previously serving on the Honolulu City Council, and becoming the youngest person ever elected to the Hawaii State Legislature at the age of 21, Gabbard now represents the state’s 2nd district. Gabbard also served in the Hawaii Army National Guard for nearly 15 years, was deployed twice to the Middle East, and continues to serve as a Major.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard currently sponsors the Congressional bill HR1227 to end prohibition on a federal level, knowing that law reform could help benefit her state’s economy and patients in need, as well as the rest of the nation. Gabbard is also scheduled to present a video introduction at the International Cannabis Business Conference this weekend, Dec. 1-3, in Kauai.

Smell the Truth recently spoke with Rep. Gabbard regarding her thoughts on how to legalize cannabis, while breaking down the negative social stigma held onto by the public and lawmakers alike.

Smell the Truth: What led you to introduce HR1227, 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Rep: Tulsi Gabbard: For years, our outdated policies on marijuana have had a devastating impact in my home state of Hawaii, and across the country.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.

StT: There’s a big push for legalization by the veteran community – what can you tell us about that?

Gabbard: 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.

StT: Why do you think there’s such a stigma surrounding cannabis use and legalization? What can be done to combat it?

Gabbard: 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.

StT: Do you have any predictions for future law reform on either a state or federal level?

Gabbard: At the federal level, I’ve introduced H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would take marijuana off the Federal Schedule of Controlled Substances. This would decriminalize marijuana, and free up banks from current FDIC restrictions that prevent them from doing 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. You can help by asking your Member of Congress to sign on to the bill.

To find your Representative, visit https://www.house.gov/

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