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Ep.353: US Congressman Matt Gaetz

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep.353: US Congressman Matt Gaetz

Ep.353: US Congressman Matt Gaetz

On his foray into cannabis advocacy- first at the state level, US Congressman Matt Gaetz joins us and shares, “I knew that we would never convince an overwhelmingly Republican state legislature and a strident Republican governor to engage in cannabis reform if they didn’t feel it in their hearts. I didn’t think I could convey that in a two dimensional medium, and so I invited Paige Figi to come and testify before the Criminal Justice Committee I chaired. I remember the conversation I had with a Baptist preacher who served on the committee with me. I was worried that he might go into full meltdown when surprised with Paige’s story, and so I told him what was going to happen in the committee. He just grabbed me by the arm and prayed with me and said he just couldn’t be with me on this.┬áBy the end of the committee meeting, he was pounding on the desk saying, “God put this plant on earth for a reason.”

Transcript:

Matt Gaetz: Matt Gaetz, 1st congressional district of Florida.

Seth Adler: Okay, so number one.

Matt Gaetz: Number one.

Seth Adler: That's something to be proud of, and your first pet, as I check levels here?

Matt Gaetz: My first pet was a Golden Retriever named Britney. I have three current pets, my dog Scarlet, my dog Stella, and my cat Tucker, all pictured prominently on my desk.

Seth Adler: Oh, look at that? Okay. The dogs, the cat ... I mean what's the deal with the cat?

Matt Gaetz: Oh man. I don't think you have to make a binary choice between dogs and cats.

Seth Adler: I see. Okay.

Matt Gaetz: I think that ...

Seth Adler: What do you appreciate about the cat?

Matt Gaetz: That it can exist in my house for three or four days without having to be taken out for a walk.

Seth Adler: Understood. We're seeing the downside of the dog. What do you appreciate about the dogs?

Matt Gaetz: Unconditional affection.

Seth Adler: Yeah. When you walk in, it doesn't even matter.

Matt Gaetz: You don't get that from the cat.

Seth Adler: Or near anyone else, Matt.

Matt Gaetz: They say if you need a friend in politics, get a dog.

Seth Adler: Get a dog.

Matt Gaetz: I apparently needed two.

Seth Adler: I guess we'll get to that, but first thing's first, really what I'd love to start with is your kind of reaction to the Cole and Ogden Memos being rescinded. Right in the beginning of January, Attorney General Sessions did that. What was your personal reaction?

Matt Gaetz: I was very frustrated that Attorney General Sessions wanted to take us into the past instead of into the future. I believe that cannabis has the potential to unlock cures and allow people to live better lives. What's even better is that we can do it without excessive government interference. How great is that for kind of a Libertarian utopian such as myself? I also felt that this was inconsistent with promises that the president had made. The president did better with young voters than other Republicans who had run.

Matt Gaetz: Matt Gaetz, 1st congressional district of Florida.

Seth Adler: Okay, so number one.

Matt Gaetz: Number one.

Seth Adler: That's something to be proud of, and your first pet, as I check levels here?

Matt Gaetz: My first pet was a Golden Retriever named Britney. I have three current pets, my dog Scarlet, my dog Stella, and my cat Tucker, all pictured prominently on my desk.

Seth Adler: Oh, look at that? Okay. The dogs, the cat ... I mean what's the deal with the cat?

Matt Gaetz: Oh man. I don't think you have to make a binary choice between dogs and cats.

Seth Adler: I see. Okay.

Matt Gaetz: I think that ...

Seth Adler: What do you appreciate about the cat?

Matt Gaetz: That it can exist in my house for three or four days without having to be taken out for a walk.

Seth Adler: Understood. We're seeing the downside of the dog. What do you appreciate about the dogs?

Matt Gaetz: Unconditional affection.

Seth Adler: Yeah. When you walk in, it doesn't even matter.

Matt Gaetz: You don't get that from the cat.

Seth Adler: Or near anyone else, Matt.

Matt Gaetz: They say if you need a friend in politics, get a dog.

Seth Adler: Get a dog.

Matt Gaetz: I apparently needed two.

Seth Adler: I guess we'll get to that, but first thing's first, really what I'd love to start with is your kind of reaction to the Cole and Ogden Memos being rescinded. Right in the beginning of January, Attorney General Sessions did that. What was your personal reaction?

Matt Gaetz: I was very frustrated that Attorney General Sessions wanted to take us into the past instead of into the future. I believe that cannabis has the potential to unlock cures and allow people to live better lives. What's even better is that we can do it without excessive government interference. How great is that for kind of a Libertarian utopian such as myself? I also felt that this was inconsistent with promises that the president had made. The president did better with young voters than other Republicans who had run.

Matt Gaetz: I think one of the reasons is that the president was open-minded about medical cannabis and indicated that he supported medical cannabis at the state level. His Attorney General then I think betrayed the president's promise.

Seth Adler: Right.

Matt Gaetz: If there was more communication going on between the Department of Justice and the White House these days, I don't know that we would have seen the Cole, Ogden Memos repealed. I'm hopeful that going forward we'll be able to have some more adult decision-making come from people like Mr. Mnuchin who are evaluating the financial impact of Jeff Sessions' bad decision.

Seth Adler: Let's I guess go to that because he did say that on the record. He was very supportive of essentially the Fincen Memo, which was released in concert with the third Cole memo. He spoke glowingly about that essentially from one standpoint. What could he do in his position with your kind of generational understanding of politics?

Matt Gaetz: Mr. Trump or Mr. Mnuchin?

Seth Adler: Mr. Mnuchin.

Matt Gaetz: Pictured here in my office as we sit is a picture of the last time I was in the Oval with the president and we were talking about the ways and different tools we could use to fight the opioid crisis. There was some legislation the president was signing that day. Mr. Mnuchin was in the Oval at that time and I pulled him aside and expressed my concern about Jeff Sessions' decision. I was relieved that Mr. Mnuchin understood that we don't want to send a $20 billion industry into the hands of the money launderers and the cartels and other bad actors. That having legal and appropriately monitored and regulated financial instruments in play would be good for everyone.

Matt Gaetz: I was relieved to know that. I've been in pretty regular contact with the treasury department since then to ensure that we're not sending the wrong smoke signals. Pardon my pun.

Seth Adler: No, it happens. It happens often.

Matt Gaetz: Too many weed puns probably.

Seth Adler: Oh my god, yeah. I actually was pointing to the picture above that one, which is Lieutenant Governor Gaetz. Now is this ...

Matt Gaetz: That's a picture of my grandfather. I've never met my grandfather. He was running for lieutenant governor. Gave a speech to the convention. My dad was 15 years old and had skipped school to watch on television. After giving a speech, my grandfather collapsed and died of a heart attack.

Seth Adler: Oh my god.

Matt Gaetz: I never met him. It was a seminal moment in my dad's life. Since I didn't get to meet my grandfather, I thought I'd bring him with me here to the congress.

Seth Adler: That's great and it says, "North Dakota's most progressive mayor."

Matt Gaetz: That's right.

Seth Adler: What does that mean?

Matt Gaetz: Well, my grandfather worked with and on the railroads. He was one of the first folks to use Indian labor and to allow Indians to come to work.

Seth Adler: Native Americans is how I might know them.

Matt Gaetz: Sure. Sure.

Seth Adler: Yeah. Whatever.

Matt Gaetz: That was deemed as very progressive at that time. There was a story my dad told me where one of the local sheriffs met my grandfather out where they were building the rail line and said that the Indians wouldn't be allowed to work in his territory. My grandfather punched him in the face and he rolled down the hill and the railroad went on and everybody was allowed to work.

Seth Adler: Right. Now you speak of your father who was a state senator as far as I know, right?

Matt Gaetz: Yes.

Seth Adler: What was his position? What got him into politics other than celebrating your grandfather?

Matt Gaetz: Well, my dad went to too many PTA meetings and got elected to the school board and then he was elected school superintendent and had our county in Florida as the highest performing county in the state for four years running. He ran for the state senate and then was asked to serve as president of the senate. He was on that path when I was elected to the House of Representatives. I remember vividly the first conservation I had with my parents about cannabis reform. I told them that after hearing the stories of very vulnerable children and after seeing the desperation in the eyes of parents, I felt compelled to try to help them.

Matt Gaetz: My parents were very distraught by this. My dad told me I'd gone one toke over the line. My mother assured me that I would lose my next election if I engaged in cannabis reform at any level. I didn't care because I thought that if we didn't use the opportunity we had in public life to help the most vulnerable people by getting the government out of their damn way, then I didn't deserve the job. Despite the fact that I live in an overwhelmingly Republican Conservative Evangelical Christian district, I passed Florida's first and second medical marijuana laws.

Matt Gaetz: While I got a few strange looks at Baptist Church on Sunday, I was really proud of my constituents for evolving their own thinking on the subject. While in every election I've run subsequently, my Republican opponents have attacked me for my views on cannabis reform, I stand behind them and I'm incredibly proud of the positive impact we've had on people's lives.

Seth Adler: You mentioned a couple of the pieces there of what kind of brought you to cannabis, but was there an epiphany as far as cannabis is concerned?

Matt Gaetz: Yeah, there was. I remember it. I was in my pajamas on a Saturday afternoon on my couch watching the CNN special Weed by Sanjay Gupta.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Matt Gaetz: I learned the story of a little girl who went from feeding tubes and surgeries to bicycle rides and hugs. I thought to myself, "Well, why don't we do something like that here in Florida to help kids like this?" It occurred to me I was the sitting Criminal Justice Chairman of the Florida House of Representatives and that I could in fact do something about it. I picked up the phone. I called the individuals who were profiled in that piece and I learned a whole lot about the ways that medical cannabis can help people.

Seth Adler: Paige Figi, of course, Charlotte's mother. I've spoken with her. Do you remember what she shared with you about how to move forward?

Matt Gaetz: I do. I knew that we would never convince an overwhelmingly Republican state legislature and a strident Republican governor to engage in cannabis reform if they didn't feel it in their hearts. I didn't think I could convey that in a two dimensional medium, and so I invited Paige Figi to come and testify before the Criminal Justice Committee I chaired. I remember the conversation I had with a Baptist preacher who served on the committee with me. I was worried that he might go into full meltdown when surprised with Paige's story, and so I told him what was going to happen in the committee. He just grabbed me by the arm and prayed with me and said he just couldn't be with me on this.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Matt Gaetz: By the end of the committee meeting, he was pounding on the desk saying, "God put this plant on earth for a reason."

Seth Adler: There you go.

Matt Gaetz: I saw the power of a parent trying to do right by their child because that is an emotion that so many people can connect with. In politics where we're all looking for a way to connect with our voters either favorably regarding the things we're doing or perhaps to point out contrasts with the folks that we're running against.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Matt Gaetz: I have never seen anything as powerful as a parent showing empathy to another parent dealing with a vulnerable child.

Seth Adler: You said you got two things passed, right-

Matt Gaetz: Yeah.

Seth Adler: ... in the state senate. Take us through just quickly I guess on each of them.

Matt Gaetz: Sure. The first thing I had to do was cross the Rubicon with my Conservative colleagues on just the notion that cannabis could be medicine in any form. The first bill that we passed allowed non-euphoric medical cannabis to be able to be used at the high CBD level to constrain seizure activity with adolescence and young adults. That was hard enough because we had to then admit that that cannabis can actually help people and be medicine. After we got that law passed ...

Seth Adler: That's without THC? That's just CBD that's-

Matt Gaetz: Correct.

Seth Adler: ... 3% or lower on THC side, so let's just focus in this. Check that box.

Matt Gaetz: We passed that bill.

Seth Adler: Right.

Matt Gaetz: The governor signs it and then it really created an easier path to get people to accept that THC could be helpful in circumstances for people with cancer, with AIDS, with MS, with degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia. The most important thing was that first admission that cannabis is not evil in every application. Once we dealt with that adult decision, it really opened the doors for broader reform.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Matt Gaetz: I'm an incrementalist, right? I mean there are a lot people I serve within congress who say, "We either have to make cannabis available for adult use recreationally for everyone under all circumstances or we have failed." My view is that we can make incremental progress on this subject and in the meantime, we can sure do a lot to improve people's quality of life.

Seth Adler: All right. As far as Rohrabacher or Blumenauer is concerned, that is attached to the budget. It keeps going. As far as McClintock-Polis, non-attached yet. How do we do that?

Matt Gaetz: We got to get more young people in congress. This is not an issue that divides on party lines. This is an issue that divides on age. It is hard to find a Republican under the age of 40 that thinks people should suffer longer and with greater pain because our government continues to cling to an antiquated policy on cannabis. I am certain that we will win on this issue. I just don't want to see people have to suffer in the interim because congress is so much slower than the people we serve in our thinking on the issue.

Seth Adler: What about going at 280E before we go to McClintock-Polis, meaning center this on the fact that this is for business, this is for small business, this is about tax, you know?

Matt Gaetz: Yeah. Carlos Curbelo, an incredibly bright member of congress from Miami, serves on the Ways and Means Committee. When congress was doing tax reform, Carlos and I drafted an amendment that would have allowed cannabis companies to be able to take normal business deductions.

Seth Adler: Along with Earl Blumenauer, right?

Matt Gaetz: Sure. Sure. We did a vote count and we were not close on the Ways and Means Committee.

Seth Adler: How come?

Matt Gaetz: Because old Democrats were stuck ...

Seth Adler: Not counting Earl.

Matt Gaetz: Not counting Earl. I should say this, too many old Democrats-

Seth Adler: Okay. Fair enough.

Matt Gaetz: ... were joining with too many recalcitrant Republicans to oppose anything that would make life easier for anyone involved in the cannabis industry. It was mean and it was inequitable. It violates the principles that Speaker Ryan and so many Conservatives in the congress have advocated for.

Seth Adler: What about when I'm told that we can't get these things to a vote because of leadership?

Matt Gaetz: Multiple times I have introduced amendments that would advance the cause of cannabis reform. In every instance, the Rules Committee has refused to allow those amendments to be in order. Clearly the people who are on the Rules Committee are closer to the leadership than those who are not.

Seth Adler: Right.

Matt Gaetz: I'm disappointed that we haven't even gotten the chance for legitimate up or down votes on these questions.

Seth Adler: Speaking of votes, just explain that sound because people will hear that now.

Matt Gaetz: Yeah. I don't really know what that means. Sometimes it means there are votes. Sometimes it means that they're opening the floor for a session. I know this, if you ever hear 15 buzzes in a row, it means that there is a nuclear warhead heading for the capitol.

Seth Adler: It wasn't quite 15.

Matt Gaetz: We were less than that.

Seth Adler: Less than that.

Matt Gaetz: During freshman orientation to the congress, I'd simply wanted to make sure that I could count to 15 when I heard the bells ring. Anything under that I'm not too worried.

Seth Adler: That's the math skills you need in congress?

Matt Gaetz: That's it.

Seth Adler: Is that what you're saying?

Matt Gaetz: That's it. Count to 15 on the bell rings and count to 30 trillion in debt over the next 10 years.

Seth Adler: Well, now that gets us to a point, doesn't it, right? What was your vote on the tax bill?

Matt Gaetz: I voted for the tax bill.

Seth Adler: You also just brought up the debt though.

Matt Gaetz: I did. I voted against the cap deal that was just entered into that I fear relegates the United States of America to a debtor nation.

Seth Adler: Why would you vote for ... Literally explain it to me. How can we vote for a tax bill that does this to the debt if we're so unhappy with the debt?

Matt Gaetz: I was told that after we cut taxes and got the economy growing, we would get real serious about cutting spending. That does not appear to be the current way of thinking.

Seth Adler: Okay. Because a couple of days after, it feels like the tax bill was signed into law. We then raised spending in every single way.

Matt Gaetz: Well, Republicans want to cut taxes. Democrats want to increase spending. We compromise and do both.

Seth Adler: Hold on one second. Plenty of Republicans wanted to increase spending. That spending bill was everybody getting everything they wanted. Left, right, it doesn't even matter what you are.

Matt Gaetz: Bipartisanship at its worst when we're willing to engage in generational theft today to fulfill our existing desires and we make the next generation pay for them.

Seth Adler: It feels like there's been a shift though because I felt like we were actually being fiscal conservatives with the last guy and we were putting caps in and we were doing the work. Seriously it was moving in the right direction. Then all of a sudden now it's like we forgot that.

Matt Gaetz: Rand Paul had a great quote, "When Democrats are in charge, the Republicans are the Conservative Party. When Republicans are in charge, there is no Conservative Party."

Seth Adler: That's it.

Matt Gaetz: On spending, I think it's a fair criticism.

Seth Adler: When the tax bill was passed, I noticed that the left kind of became fiscal conservatives. I asked myself just basically rephrasing what you just said, if everyone's a fiscal conservative, how is no one a fiscal conservative?

Matt Gaetz: Well, it's far easier to be a fiscal conservative when you're not in power it appears. The real discipline comes in cutting spending when you have the ability to benefit from that spending.

Seth Adler: Why not then vote against the tax bill and make spending be a part of that tax bill? You see, I'm trying to get into your mind.

Matt Gaetz: That's why I voted against the budget. Right.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Matt Gaetz: The delivery system for the tax bill was a budget that didn't balance because that allowed us to be able to cut taxes without cutting spending. I voted against the budget that was the delivery system for the tax bill because I wanted to force us to cut spending alongside tax cuts. I wasn't then willing to hold the American taxpayer hostage because Washington is too undisciplined to cut spending. Our tax code was so anti-competitive it was a wet blanket over the American economy. What are we going to say? We want to keep the wet blanket over the American economy.

Seth Adler: Oh yeah, no. No, I mean that's the corporate tax. I get it.

Matt Gaetz: Sure.

Seth Adler: I understand. It's just that we got a real problem. I mean you're not an old guy here. This debt is going to catch up to us.

Matt Gaetz: Thank you. It is. Honestly, history is going to judge the youngest of us the harshest, right? I mean there is nothing I fear in this job more than the judgment of history on this debt. My fear is that historians won't look back and expect someone in their 70s to have solved this problem. They're going to judge the people in their 30s and 40s and think why were you there unwilling to take a stand to stop the hallowing out of the country through spending?

Seth Adler: What can we do from here?

Matt Gaetz: Elect more young people to congress.

Seth Adler: Got it. Then what are the policies? How can we actually cut down this debt?

Matt Gaetz: Look, we absolutely have to reform our entitlement system. We need to impose work requirements on every entitlement we have for able bodied childless adults. We're also going to have to means test some of the entitlements that are very popular.

Seth Adler: You used the word entitlement. It's an interesting word. As far as like a Gen X guy like me, I've been paying it to social security for dozens of years.

Matt Gaetz: Yeah, you're never going to get it.

Seth Adler: Are we breaking the promise with the American people on that?

Matt Gaetz: We've already broken the promise by stealing the money.

Seth Adler: Yeah, but ...

Matt Gaetz: There comes a point in which social security becomes untenable. Now we're not there yet, but rather than continuing to paddle toward the edge of the waterfall, my thought is that maybe we ought to recalibrate the system so that it is sustainable over the long haul.

Seth Adler: Sure. Raising the age, I still get my money. Why do you say I don't get my money? You're an incrementalist, right?

Matt Gaetz: You might be old enough to get your money. I don't get mine. I think that ...

Seth Adler: Point taken. No, but what are we saying here? If you're an incrementalist, what are we getting at as far raising the age? What are the things that we actually can do without blowing the whole thing up?

Matt Gaetz: Cannabis reform.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Matt Gaetz: No. I think that what we can ... My parents are millionaires. They probably should not be getting the same social security cheque as someone who relies on that social security cheque for their existence. My parents can afford their own prescription drugs. Maybe the next generation shouldn't have to pay for their own life saving drugs and the life saving drugs of wealthy people today.

Seth Adler: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That doesn't sound like what I understand a Conservative position to be.

Matt Gaetz: It's what I believe a Libertarian position to be.

Seth Adler: Okay. Further explain that so we understand.

Matt Gaetz: Well, I think that to every extent that we're able to become less reliant on the government, we become more fulfilled as individuals.

Seth Adler: Oh, I'm speaking of you separated classes and said, "Hey, let's take care of these people and not worry about those people." That's what I'm talking about.

Matt Gaetz: Well, sure. Yeah. Just because I believe in limited government doesn't believe I believe in no government. The government we do have should exist to care for the vulnerable. My mom's been in a wheelchair for 32 years. We have the means to provide for her healthcare, but there's not a day that goes by that I don't thank God that we have that ability because if we didn't, I would want to make sure that we lived in a country that could care for the disabled, the infirm, children, seniors. The problem is now we've turned the safety net into a hammock for a generation of people who can go to work, but choose not to.

Seth Adler: I've heard that before. Who's saying that because that's ... I've heard that from other people.

Matt Gaetz: Well, maybe they're quoting me. Who knows?

Seth Adler: Yeah. It could be that. Right. Let's talk about this board here, this whiteboard. How much can I say about what's on there? There's a lot of Post-It notes. I can say that.

Matt Gaetz: Yeah, I mean look, there are elements of our congressional office that might look a little bit more like a tech company than a congressional office, but yeah, I mean when we think of an idea here, we put it up in the icebox on the board and then it's assigned to one of the staff members we have. When they complete it and it's ready for review, then it moves to the next stage on the flowchart.

Seth Adler: I see. Why is it called the icebox?

Matt Gaetz: Well, because I guess it's on ice. I don't know much because I never thought of that.

Seth Adler: Well, because when I saw icebox, I thought to myself, "These are things that are on hold." You know what I mean?

Matt Gaetz: No. No. No. They just haven't been assigned yet to a staff member.

Seth Adler: I got you. Okay. All right. Again this left-right thing, this red-blue thing, you've ... I've spoken with Congressman Curbelo and I've spoken with Congressman Khanna.

Matt Gaetz: Two great people.

Seth Adler: You guys don't sound like the older guys.

Matt Gaetz: No. If the millennial generation has a gift to humanity, it's that we are the most socially interconnected generation in all of human history. We are more inclined to collaborate than we are to seek issues upon which to divide ourselves. Ro Khanna, a liberal democrat from the Obama administration from California, probably doesn't hold many of my views ideologically, but we have been able to collaborate on issues like cannabis reform, like using technology to make government more efficient and effective.

Matt Gaetz: We were actually working earlier on ways to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to be able to comb social media and red flag individuals that might do horrendous things like we saw in Parkland, Florida. I think that there is a natural inclination to want to work together among the younger members even on the ideological extremes.

Seth Adler: I take your point about utilizing really the best and brightest technology, but as a libertarian, how could you be okay with AI combing the internet of me and what I'm doing and then maybe even telling someone?

Matt Gaetz: Well, you don't enjoy a right to privacy on the information that you post for others to consumer. The Parkland shooter was posting YouTube videos and other social media content for the world to see. He was ...

Seth Adler: It's not my private information. It's what I've posted publicly.

Matt Gaetz: Exactly. Exactly.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Matt Gaetz: I think that that will allow us to gather useful information from social media.

Seth Adler: All right. A couple things that we got to talk about here, the one vote thing, right? The trafficking thing. How many times have you spoken about that first off?

Matt Gaetz: Oh, I don't recall.

Seth Adler: All right. Tell me what I'm talking about and then tell me what you were thinking.

Matt Gaetz: Sure. I was not elected to come up here and vote to create new entities of government. If anything, I want less government in Washington and I want the decision-making closer to regular folks. I hold that view because I was in state government. I saw my state function as a laboratory for democracy working on different solutions, seeing what worked and didn't work in other states. That's how I wrote my marijuana reform bill. I looked at things in other states that were effective and other things that were less effective. There is a gravity in Washington that believes that if we pull all decisions inside the beltway, that somehow we'll have better outcomes.

Matt Gaetz: In 14 months, I've seen enough of this town to know that I want as few decisions made here as possible. There was ...

Seth Adler: I don't disagree with you, Matt.

Matt Gaetz: There was legislation that created a new board so that a bunch of people could get together and have meetings about human trafficking. I voted against that legislation not because I don't think that human trafficking is a horrible thing that we should stop, but I just don't think a bunch of new bureaucrats in Washington sitting around and talking about it is an effective strategy.

Seth Adler: How come though, and again now we're talking about the most vulnerable and you've already said I'm here to kind of protect them, how come you had no one else on your side? The way that you're describing it, who wouldn't agree, you know? No one likes a meeting. No one does.

Matt Gaetz: Fewer people like the admonishment of the press and being labeled as someone who is bound to be the human trafficker legislator of the year. I think that too often we are divorced from our principles as a consequence of fear. Likely many of my colleagues who hold my libertarian leanings simply looked at that legislation and said, "Well, you know, we don't want to be viewed as pro human trafficking, so oh hell, we'll just vote for it." Frankly, that's how we get too much damn government in this town.

Seth Adler: That makes sense to me. I can see that direct line there. Just turn us wise as to what you would have done instead.

Matt Gaetz: One of the major challenges with human trafficking is that we struggle to be able to bring prosecutions against people because one of the elements you have to meet under the law is duress. Courts have interpreted that duress standard to mean that there has to be physical duress. Like you have to literally put your hands on someone and move them. The realty is that in a lot of these human trafficking cases, there is psychological duress, there is economic duress. People are fooled into believing that they're going to work at Disneyland. The reality is they end up in some massage parlor somewhere doing unspeakable acts.

Matt Gaetz: I think that changing in statute the definition of duress would allow us to be able to bring more effective prosecutors against human traffickers, but that's a lot harder than just setting up an ad hoc committee to have meetings.

Seth Adler: Because that's real work that's hard, but that also does cost money though.

Matt Gaetz: No, it doesn't. It just changes the legal standard. You could do it at no expense. The only money it would cost is that we'd have to incarcerate horrible human traffickers. I'm willing to pay the bill for that.

Seth Adler: Right. We're willing to pay the bill for incarcerating drug traffickers. We're right there.

Matt Gaetz: Real drug traffickers.

Seth Adler: Yeah, exactly.

Matt Gaetz: Unfortunately in the country and in too many states ...

Seth Adler: The unregulated market.

Matt Gaetz: Yeah, but like too often people are labeled as drug traffickers who have a substance abuse problem. That's why on the Judiciary Committee we're working on elements of criminal justice reform. My home is that we'll be able to inject some sane cannabis policy into the broader criminal justice reform that's happening.

Seth Adler: All right.

Matt Gaetz: That I hope will happen.

Seth Adler: Inject sanity. Vote in younger members of congress. These are all solutions. What do we do about where we are as far as divisiveness? How do we solve that because I think you and I-

Matt Gaetz: No, it's a great question.

Seth Adler: ... might be both guilty of maybe a little divisiveness, right?

Matt Gaetz: The best antidote to recalcitrate an opposition to cannabis reform is the story of a vulnerable patient or a family that has seen improved quality of life. I have a strategy to inundate my colleagues with the favorable outcomes families have received from cannabis reform. There's a little girl in my district. Her name's Rayanne. Her folks have allowed me to tell the story. Doctors told her that she was going to have to saw her brain in half to stop seizures from firing across her brain and that she would need a feeding tube. She's a medical cannabis patient now. She's on a baseball team. She plays basketball in her yard everyday.

Seth Adler: She's fine.

Matt Gaetz: She is fantastic. I brought her here to Washington and allowed her to runaround on the floor of the House of Represents during votes and give hugs to members of congress who would say hello to her. When I would tell folks that she was a medical cannabis patient, I would occasionally see a flicker in their eye that if something could allow this little girl to have quality of life, it cannot be universally bad.

Seth Adler: Bigger picture. I'm talking about divisiveness. I take all those points and they're great ones. Bigger picture. We are more divisive and you mentioned it. I got a couple years on you, but I grew up in the '80s when we were all Americans and you know who the enemy was. It wasn't the other American.

Matt Gaetz: Jimmy Carter. No. It was the Soviets. You're right.

Seth Adler: Where are we as far ... I'm not bringing that up because I feel like that's going to be a rabbit hole, but what about just basic divisiveness? How can we speak to each other in a way that we can hear each other?

Matt Gaetz: It's the $64,000 question. I do find that starting with issues that bring people together can create positive momentum. f start with the most divisive see n the agenda, people can retreat to their corners and it can be very difficult to draw them out. I think that in our committees, in our legislative agendas to start on the issues that bring people together the most would create more positive momentum downstream.

Seth Adler: I just said I'm not going to bring it up, but now I will.

Matt Gaetz: Sure.

Seth Adler: What are your thoughts on what's going on here?

Matt Gaetz: With what?

Seth Adler: 13 entities that were brought up on ...

Matt Gaetz: Oh, you mean the Mueller indictment? Look, Russia does this all over the world. Russia engages in malign influence in elections ...

Seth Adler: You take that? That is absolutely what they're doing.

Matt Gaetz: Absolutely.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Matt Gaetz: They do it in the Middle East. They do it in The Balkans. They do it in Latin America. Russia's game plan includes malign influence by trying to undermine democratic institutions.

Seth Adler: Should we try to stop them, Matt?

Matt Gaetz: Of course we should and do try to stop them, right?

Seth Adler: They were just here telling us that they haven't been told to protect the elections in 2018.

Matt Gaetz: Several weeks ago, I mean I was in regular communication with Homeland Security officials-

Seth Adler: That's what I'm talking about.

Matt Gaetz: ... in real time are working with supervisors of elections to create early warning systems to be able to designate certain types of conduct with either voting machines or voter registration.

Seth Adler: They're working on it.

Matt Gaetz: Yeah. I mean I think that we ... You're always kind of chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole when you're dealing with the Russians and their malign influence campaign, but it would be a distortion to suggest that there is not some preparation underway to try to counteract that malign influence.

Seth Adler: I mean if we're never going to spend any money, but maybe let's just spend a dollar, isn't this where to spend it?

Matt Gaetz: Of course.

Seth Adler: But shouldn't anybody that we have in a position to protect us against foreign influence, shouldn't that person have as much as they need as far as protecting the American people?

Matt Gaetz: Of course. This is central to the role of the federal government. Let's also provide some context for this. The theory that a hundred trolls at St. Petersburg, Russia was able to like swing the outcome of the election is ludicrous.

Seth Adler: I'm not bringing that up.

Matt Gaetz: Absolutely ludicrous.

Seth Adler: That's not what I'm talking about with you.

Matt Gaetz: Right.

Seth Adler: What you and I are talking about is what we agree on, which is the fact that no doubt there was influence that was meant to happen and it did happen and we got to stop it.

Matt Gaetz: Agreed.

Seth Adler: All right. Now you brought up guests and I got up bring up the last thing before the three final questions. What's with the guests to the State of the Union? What the heck was going on there? This is a white supremacist is what I've been ...

Matt Gaetz: I don't believe that to be the case. I think that Chuck Johnson has sad things that are very regrettable, that are horrible. I believe he regrets them. I do not believe that Chuck s a white supremacist. I certainly don't believe that he's a holocaust denier. I'm joined by Alan Dershowitz in that view, but I should have done more of that ...

Seth Adler: The way you said Dershowitz, it sounded like you were saying Jew.

Matt Gaetz: No. I did not say that. I said Dershowitz. I should have done more vetting on my State of the Union guest.

Seth Adler: Okay. Good.

Matt Gaetz: I take responsibility for that.

Seth Adler: Fair enough.

Matt Gaetz: That falls to me. Another colleague sent over someone who needed a ticket and I provided it. I own that decision and I'm responsible for it.

Seth Adler: Okay. Good. I appreciate that. As far as the hate stuff, we got to get rid of it. Correct?

Matt Gaetz: Oh yeah. Absolutely.

Seth Adler: I speak for the two then?

Matt Gaetz: In this country, we've got so much going for us in terms of how diverse and pluralistic we are. Sometimes the cost for that is that there is a resentment that bubbles up in elements of our society that I think is born of sort of a lack of education. One of the classic examples right now is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement where-

Seth Adler: I don't know what you're talking about.

Matt Gaetz: ... companies are choosing to not do business with anyone who operates in Israel.

Seth Adler: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh yes. Of course. Yes, I am ...

Matt Gaetz: As a way to be anti-Semitic to Israel.

Seth Adler: I am familiar with that.

Matt Gaetz: That's an example of something that is bubbling up on college campuses, at times in high schools. I think that we've got an obligation to identify that for what it is and to root it out with appropriate legal tools. Just one example of how within this country you can see that ugly underside of humanity. It does exist even with as much progress as we've made.

Seth Adler: All right. I got three final questions for you. I'll tell you what they are. I'll ask you them in order, but I'd like your permission. Anytime I see you say something that I think is like, "What is he talking about," do you mind if I call you?

Matt Gaetz: I don't mind at all.

Seth Adler: All right. The three final questions, I'll tell you what they are. I'll ask you them in order.

Matt Gaetz: Okay.

Seth Adler: What has most surprised you in cannabis? What has most surprised in life? On the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's got to be on there? First thing's first, what's most surprised you in cannabis?

Matt Gaetz: The extent to which age really is the principle factor that tells me whether or not one of my colleagues will support my cannabis reform efforts.

Seth Adler: With the exception of course of Congressman Rohrabacher and Blumenauer.

Matt Gaetz: Sure, but ...

Seth Adler: And McClintock for that matter.

Matt Gaetz: The most significant factor on whether or not people support cannabis reform is their age. That surprised me.

Seth Adler: That's the profiling that is easy to do is your point.

Matt Gaetz: Yes.

Seth Adler: All right. What's most surprised you in life?

Matt Gaetz: The heroism of my mother. I mean my mother has been in a wheelchair for 32 years. She's lived with pain each and everyday of her life and she does it with a smile. It has given me great empathy for people who are vulnerable and who do suffer, but they persist and they flourish despite the thorns that we carry.

Seth Adler: You brought her up. What's the condition there?

Matt Gaetz: My mother has a spinal cord injury that resulted from a pregnancy.

Seth Adler: Okay. All right.

Matt Gaetz: Not with me. With my sibling.

Seth Adler: I got you. Okay. Who is with us? That sibling?

Matt Gaetz: Yes. Yes. My 32 year old sister.

Seth Adler: All right. Fantastic. On the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's got to be on there.

Matt Gaetz: The Joker, Steve Miller Band.

Seth Adler: Matt Gaetz, I appreciate your time, sir.

Matt Gaetz: Thank you.

Seth Adler: There you have Congressman Matt Gaetz. Very much appreciate his time. Very much appreciate yours. Stay tuned.

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Cannabis Economy is a real-time history of legal cannabis. We chronicle how personal and industry histories have combined to provide our current reality.