The Right to Choose with Cory Gardner
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The Right to Choose with Cory Gardner


– [Narrator] In 2018,
an incredible 46 states have legalized at least some
form of medical cannabis, and so far, nine have legalized
recreational use as well. Remarkably, some conservatives, lead by former attorney
general Jeff Sessions, assert that federal law should trump the will of the states on this issue. What happened to federalism? Free the People sat down
with US Senator Cory Gardner, whose state of Colorado
was among the first to legalize the sale and use of cannabis. Senator Gardner isn’t the
world’s biggest fan of weed, but he is a fan of the Constitution
and its 10th Amendment. – Senator Gardner, thanks
for sitting down with us. – Yeah, thanks for having me. – You are the lead sponsor of legislation that essentially gets
the federal government out of the question of cannabis and restores that right to the states. Tell me what your legislation does. – Yeah, so our
legislation’s really simple. In fact, there’s a lot of
bills that have been introduced in Congress, multiple
pages, complicated efforts on the financial services
side, banking side. This is a real simple approach. It simply takes the
federalism avenue to states, allowing them to be the
laboratories of democracy that our founders intended
states to be and says, hey, if a state has decided
to legalize marijuana, hemp, any of the sort
of spectrum of marijuana or hemp issues, then it’s no
longer an illegal activity. That’s something perfectly legal. And it’s a just a two-page
bill that simply says a state can do it, and if a state does it, then that federal prohibition
no longer applies. – Now, you’ve partnered with Democrats. What’s the balance here? Do you get Republicans for it as well? – Yeah, we do, we do, not enough. We’re still working on it right now. This is a states’ rights approach. We have five Democrats, five
Republicans on the legislation right now, the STATES Act, so 10 members of the US Senate on board. We’re hopefully getting others. It’s certainly gotten a lot of attention and a lot of interest,
because it identifies a couple of core beliefs
for, certainly, Republicans, conservatives who believe
in states’ rights, who want to see more power
taken out of Washington and decentralized, so to speak, diffused out into the states. So that’s kind of what appeals to them, but just the uncertainty
that they have in their minds about marijuana itself and
how that’s going to affect themselves, their constituency, and where their voters are at. – It’s fascinating to
watch some conservatives who have been talking
about the 10th Amendment and how we really should stay
out of the states’ businesses sort of flip and flop
on this, and Democrats are the same thing, that on this question a lot of them have suddenly
embraced the 10th Amendment, but I view this as a conservative issue. – Well, if we’re going
to stand up and fight that states’ rights
conflict or that penalty against states’ rights by
shutting down school choice, then shouldn’t we be consistent and support a moment like this, where it’s something that we disagree with or some may disagree with on
legalization of marijuana? So to me, it’s a matter of
being consistent and saying, if we’re for states’ rights here, we’re for states’ rights there. – So there’s a lot of medical evidence that cannabis is an important
treatment for things ranging from epilepsy
to all sorts of other really challenging health issues. Do you think that there
are health benefits to cannabis for some patients? – There absolutely are, and
I think you’ve seen that in the people that have
come into my office who first started me on
sort of what the first bill I introduced in this
area was a CBD bill to, based on a strain of
cannabis that they developed a CBD oil out of called Charlotte’s Web. Paige Figi is one of the
premier voices in this, back in Colorado where one of her kids was suffering from epilepsy,
I think around 1,200 seizures, internal seizures a month. And through the use of CBDs, it dropped to about a dozen a month. It doesn’t work for all
kids, and that’s an area where we need to study. Why does it work for some, not for others? But it clearly, it had a benefit, and a life-changing benefit. We have medical refugees
now, where you have people, families moving to Colorado,
their mom or their dad with their child, and the other
mom or dad is off somewhere else, because they can
get treatment in Colorado. It’s changing their kid’s
life for the better. And we need to fix this. We need to have this solution. – You know, I’m old enough to remember when Republicans argued against
too much government control of health care because we
believed that those decisions should be between patients and doctors. – Right, it’s interesting. It’s an interesting debate, you know. I mean, that’s, kind of,
when I go to a member, particularly who may be, who
I know may be a little bit hesitant to support a
states’ rights approach, legalization approach, and
I remind them about that. Hey, this is about getting out of the way. This is about turning something over, away from the federal government to those who can better handle
it for their population, for their people, their constituencies. And that’s a big internal tension that has to be addressed here. – So you mentioned the Colorado economy and what an important sector
legal cannabis is there. It’s, I think you said,
a $2 billion business. That’s amazing. How is it going in Colorado? ‘Cause some people have
argued that legalization has been a bumpy ride. And more importantly, how
has the attorney general’s very aggressive stance impacted Colorado’s transition to legalization? – Yeah, I think, to the
first part of it, I mean, there have been some bad
things that have happened. There’s no doubt about that. I mean, you talk to sheriffs
and they have a big concern about the number of homeless,
what they would call, perhaps, vagrants that
are in and out of an area. You talk to people who
manage our public lands, and they talk about the
forests are being used for illegal grow operations. That’s been a challenge. But you talked about some
of the benefits earlier, and that’s on the health side, kids who are leading
better lives because of it and jobs that are being created and an industry that is, if
you go to Denver right now, we have record, Colorado
overall, record unemployment levels, a lot of jobs being created. So there’s benefits too. So this is something that
we need to study more. It’s something we need
to have more information. Public surveys in Colorado,
the federal surveys show that teen use of marijuana
has actually declined in Colorado over the past several years, so why is that happening? Has it happened because
it’s no longer something daring to do, or is it
happening because people are doing a better job of
saying, hey, be careful of what you’re doing and don’t do this. So I think there’s a lot of
questions that need answered, but it’s good and bad,
but it’s not going away, and that’s what we have to deal with. – So you’re gonna go out in the hallway and you’re gonna run into your
most conservative colleague and get on the elevator with him or her. What’s the elevator pitch? – The elevator pitch is this. If we believe that government
should get out of the way and let the state decide what to do, here’s an opportunity to do just that. That if we believe in the 10th Amendment, if we believe in giving
states more rights, not fewer, this is a perfect solution,
and it’s addressing a number of problems,
banking, the safety issues, it’s addressing that
legalization conflict, and it says, so it’s a long elevator ride. So the other thing, too,
that I think is important– – Or you’re stuck. – Yeah, that’s right,
yeah, it’s a tall building. In these conversations,
I always bring up too that if your state
doesn’t want to do this, then you don’t have to. And I think that’s part of the distinction that is lost in this debate sometimes. There are approaches to
quote, unquote legalize. This is not about legalization. This is about federalism. So if you live in, I used to
use the example of Oklahoma, but now Oklahoma has even moved forward on medical marijuana,
but if Oklahoma decides they don’t want to pursue
recreational marijuana, they don’t have to, and nothing changes at the federal level. They’re still under that same system. So this really is about
empowering a decision to be made locally. – Thank you. (placid music)

8 Comments

  • Noelle Campbell

    I'm glad you're all for freedom to choose, but your priorities on what we should fight to be able to choose is dumbass stupid. Where are your massive movements for freedom to choose insurance? Freedom to choose where my tax money goes? Freedom to choose private security instead of federal or city police? Freedom from having to pay taxes on your income when illegals get paid under the table? This is why people get sick of effing libertarians (and I am one ). Do you think we can stop worrying about the stupid stoners and whores and maybe focus on us people out here working hard and being penalized for following the law?

  • Jack's Son

    Yeah, this is okay but keep in mind he is flowing in the direction of where this is already heading. Cory is pretty weak as someone representing the right. He would rather compromise and capitulate to hang on to his seat rather than truly standing for something and risk losing it.

  • Wee Todd Did

    Whether or not you are for legalization you can be for states rights! The federal government has no business interfering with states business.

  • kevin ivory

    I grew up with epileptic seizures and was on a medication that had very detrimental side effects. I'm angry to this day that CBD oil, which has no psychoactive effects, wasn't available as an option for treatment. I believe it should be decriminalized and legalized for recreational use Nationwide.

  • Some Dandy

    Cory Gardner! Whew-hoo! I voted for him.
    I don't regret it.
    [Edit] In a related note…Denver activists are now pushing to legalize Magic Mushrooms in the city.

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