Five Governors discuss cannabis and hemp at Politico’s ninth annual “State Solutions” conference

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Five governors from separate states discussed the topic of cannabis and hemp legalization at Politico’s ninth annual “State Solutions” conference last month.

The event has since stimulated plenty of conversation amongst cannabis advocates, what with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) saying hemp needs to be regulated “just like any crop.”

Polis wants his state to keep broadening its legal hemp and cannabis economies. During his State of the State address in January, the pro-pot governor vowed to make Colorado a pioneer in industrial hemp production. He even whipped out a hemp business card at the event.“There’s an existential threat to everything we’re doing in Colorado,” Polis said in regards to federal cannabis policy protections and intervention.

“Obviously the counterbalance to that is the federal government—even if they somehow did make this more of an enforcement priority—don’t have the ability on the ground to prosecute so many people,” he said.

“I hope that they can either reinstate something like the Cole memorandum or, even better, that Congress can finally move forward with changing the laws and leaving it up to the states,” he added in regards to the cannabis enforcement guidance established by Obama prior to its retraction from the former-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year.

When questioned about his thoughts on using medical cannabis to combat opioid addiction, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), responded positively.

“I think everybody would like to have any kind of medicine that will help alleviate pain and suffering,” he said, as he blamed the federal government’s failure to reschedule cannabis for a lack clinical research into the plant’s medicinal benefits. “We ought to change the law, allow it to be studied,” he said. “What are we afraid of?”

Then there was South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who spoke about the potentially looming legalization of industrial hemp in the “Mount Rushmore State.” Noem touched upon the importance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture releasing “federal guidelines” for hemp production, as well as securing enough money and resources for proper crop regulation.

Recently, Noem prompted the Senate to delay a scheduled hearing to discuss an industrial hemp cultivation bill. Just a fortnight ago, the legislation passed the House in a 62-5 vote. During her appearance on Politico’s ninth annual “State Solutions” conference, Noem revealed her concerns pertaining to public safety and her desires to increase roadside drug testing.

In the second session of the cannabis conference, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) talked about cannabis. Brown praised legal weed, expressing how it has bolstered job opportunities in Oregon. She says that  “at the very least” 19,000 to 20,000 people are employed by hemp or cannabis businesses in the state.

“These are very good industries,” she said, adding that, “they’re growing good-paying jobs in communities throughout the state of Oregon.”

Brown thinks that cannabis banking services ought to be a “top priority” for Congress. Lamont, on the other hand, spoke positively and confidently about cannabis legalization in Connecticut, affirming that the “Nutmeg State” would “do it right” in terms of legislation. 

“It will pass in Connecticut,” he affirmed. “Why do you hand this over to the black market? I think that’s one of the dumbest things we can do,” adding that the current system of prohibition encourages “disrespect for the law.”

Lamont described legalization as a “criminal justice issue,” due to communities of color being disproportionately targeted by cannabis law enforcement officers. He hopes that legalization will involve cannabis criminal record expungement.

A large portion of the Connecticut House has already signed onto a bill for the legalization of recreational weed in Connecticut.

Before the conference came to an end, the Governor of Connecticut divulged how he has conversed with cannabis reform advocate Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) regarding a collaboration to establish successful legal weed markets in their respective states.