Ep. 401: US Congressman Denny Heck

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep. 401: US Congressman Denny Heck

Ep. 401: US Congressman Denny Heck

US Congressman Denny Heck joins us and shares the road to Washington’s progress on Marijuana legislature: “We were the first two states in the Union on the very first night to have the voters legally authorize adult recreational use of marijuana. As a consequence, we began to get into some of the issues of difficult implementation as it relates to the federal policy and regulatory framework.”

Transcript:

Seth Adler: US congressman Denny Heck joins us. Welcome to Cannabis Economy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Download episodes on canneconomy.com. That's two Ns. And the word "economy". First a word from Wana Brands, and then US Congressman Denny Heck.

Speaker 2: Want to know with Wana Brands. Nancy, just general expansion into other states, what do you think?

Nancy: We are in such an active period right now. We have many, many states that we're in serious discussions with, but some of the most far along discussions are Ohio, California. You've heard of California?

Speaker 2: I have.

Nancy: So that's an exciting one for us. Massachusetts, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. And we're looking at Washington, Michigan. We are quite in a expansion mode right now.

Seth Adler: Congressman Denny Heck, thank you for having me in here to your brand new office.

Denny Heck: Brand new. Not even unpacked. That's why the sound is bouncing off the walls. We don't have anything on them yet.

Seth Adler: That's right. That's right. You're one of these few folks that moved office buildings even. You're not usually a Longworth person.

Denny Heck: No. This is Rayburn.

Seth Adler: Excuse me.

Denny Heck: You don't know what building you're in. Do you know what day of the week it is? We were up in Cannon-

Seth Adler: Cannon.

Denny Heck: But of course they're remodeling 25% of it every two years.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Denny Heck: We had another two years, but then we would have been displaced, so we decided to take the opportunity to move uptown, closer to my committee assignment.

Seth Adler: Yeah. There we go. Which committee?

Denny Heck: Financial services and also intel committee, the intelligence committee. HIPSCI as we call it.

Seth Adler: Let's dive in on financial services. And just quickly in my defense, I was just with Congressman Blumenauer in Longworth, so I came through the tunnel and the whole bit.

Denny Heck: I see. That's kind of a fig leaf of an excuse for not knowing what building you're in, but okay.

Seth Adler: That's fair.

Denny Heck: We'll go with it.

Seth Adler: No, no, yeah I'm okay being wrong. I usually am, as my girlfriend will tell you.
So financial services, that makes sense based on legislation that you've introduced with your friend Congressman Perlmutter, who's been on. Why don't we just dive right in on your marijuana, as it states, finance legislation that you introduced.

Denny Heck: Safe Banking Act.

Seth Adler: Indeed.

Denny Heck: I'm Ed Perlmutter from Colorado's wing man on this. We've been partnering on it for six years because we were the first two states in the Union on the very first night to have the voters legally authorize adult recreational use of marijuana. As a consequence, we began to get into some of the issues of difficult implementation as it relates to the federal policy and regulatory framework. Basically the Safe Banking Act says in its simplest terms if you legally authorize through your legislature or your voters some form of use of marijuana, mostly medical but also now what 10, 11 states on adult recreational use, and if you follow the provisions of the Cole Memorandum, the famous Cole Memorandum from the Department of Justice-

Seth Adler: US congressman Denny Heck joins us. Welcome to Cannabis Economy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Download episodes on canneconomy.com. That's two Ns. And the word "economy". First a word from Wana Brands, and then US Congressman Denny Heck.

Speaker 2: Want to know with Wana Brands. Nancy, just general expansion into other states, what do you think?

Nancy: We are in such an active period right now. We have many, many states that we're in serious discussions with, but some of the most far along discussions are Ohio, California. You've heard of California?

Speaker 2: I have.

Nancy: So that's an exciting one for us. Massachusetts, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. And we're looking at Washington, Michigan. We are quite in a expansion mode right now.

Seth Adler: Congressman Denny Heck, thank you for having me in here to your brand new office.

Denny Heck: Brand new. Not even unpacked. That's why the sound is bouncing off the walls. We don't have anything on them yet.

Seth Adler: That's right. That's right. You're one of these few folks that moved office buildings even. You're not usually a Longworth person.

Denny Heck: No. This is Rayburn.

Seth Adler: Excuse me.

Denny Heck: You don't know what building you're in. Do you know what day of the week it is? We were up in Cannon-

Seth Adler: Cannon.

Denny Heck: But of course they're remodeling 25% of it every two years.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Denny Heck: We had another two years, but then we would have been displaced, so we decided to take the opportunity to move uptown, closer to my committee assignment.

Seth Adler: Yeah. There we go. Which committee?

Denny Heck: Financial services and also intel committee, the intelligence committee. HIPSCI as we call it.

Seth Adler: Let's dive in on financial services. And just quickly in my defense, I was just with Congressman Blumenauer in Longworth, so I came through the tunnel and the whole bit.

Denny Heck: I see. That's kind of a fig leaf of an excuse for not knowing what building you're in, but okay.

Seth Adler: That's fair.

Denny Heck: We'll go with it.

Seth Adler: No, no, yeah I'm okay being wrong. I usually am, as my girlfriend will tell you.
So financial services, that makes sense based on legislation that you've introduced with your friend Congressman Perlmutter, who's been on. Why don't we just dive right in on your marijuana, as it states, finance legislation that you introduced.

Denny Heck: Safe Banking Act.

Seth Adler: Indeed.

Denny Heck: I'm Ed Perlmutter from Colorado's wing man on this. We've been partnering on it for six years because we were the first two states in the Union on the very first night to have the voters legally authorize adult recreational use of marijuana. As a consequence, we began to get into some of the issues of difficult implementation as it relates to the federal policy and regulatory framework. Basically the Safe Banking Act says in its simplest terms if you legally authorize through your legislature or your voters some form of use of marijuana, mostly medical but also now what 10, 11 states on adult recreational use, and if you follow the provisions of the Cole Memorandum, the famous Cole Memorandum from the Department of Justice-

Seth Adler: The second one. That's the one that everybody loves.

Denny Heck: Yeah. ... Then financial institutions, be they banks or credit unions, can not be sanctioned or-

Seth Adler: Excuse me. This is the first Cole Memo that was released with FinCEN guidance. This is what you're talking about.

Denny Heck: I'm talking about the Cole Memorandum from DOJ.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Denny Heck: Not the FinCEN.

Seth Adler: Not FinCEN?

Denny Heck: FinCEN, I think it's fair to say, accurate to say that Congressman Perlmutter and I kind of rested away from them by continually reminding them that they needed to actually do something. But the Cole Memorandum was an assistant attorney general.

Seth Adler: Of course.

Denny Heck: I can't remember his name.

Seth Adler: Jim Cole.

Denny Heck: Yeah. In fact, you've had him on haven't you?

Seth Adler: Absolutely.

Denny Heck: He did some good public servant work there. Sure did.

Seth Adler: Absolutely.

Denny Heck: That's where we're at. We've been trying-

Seth Adler: Indeed. FinCEN guidance though is still on the books. When his Cole Memos were rescinded the FinCEN guidance was not.

Denny Heck: Right.

Seth Adler: From February 14th, that's the third one. That says that banks can bank cannabis. You know what I mean? Secretary Mnuchin seems to agree with that conceptual thinking.

Denny Heck: Look, the reality is we get mixed signals from the Trump administration. Jeff Sessions, who obviously was still stuck in reefer madness context.

Seth Adler: Indeed.

Denny Heck: Then you get other signals from the President himself. They've been mixed over a long period of time. He gave I think a fairly explicit assurance to Senator Cory Gardener from Colorado that he would be supportive, and Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary of Treasury, has I think sent positive signals, but it's mixed. From the bank or the financial institution standpoint there is regulatory uncertainty and there is reputational risk-

Seth Adler: Certainly.

Denny Heck: And there are compliance costs. For all of those reasons, which none of which are the number one reason to do this, we ought to do it. The number one reason we ought to do it is public safety because to the degree that criminals think that all of these financial institutions, or all these marijuana retailers are still cash only, they become in effect an attractive nuisance for a criminal, and there's been some tragic consequence there. I never have a conversation with anybody, ever, about the Safe Banking Access Act, ever, without saying please remember this name, Travis Mason.

Seth Adler: Okay?

Denny Heck: Travis Mason was a 23 year old security guard in Colorado at a marijuana retail establishment. He was a Marine veteran, as was his wife. At the age of 23 he had three small kids because they had twins, so they get started very early on their family. They were both studying to be law enforcement officers while working. He was working as a security guard until one night a criminal came into the premises and shot him dead, widowed his wife, and left his children without a father because that fellow, the robber, thought that was all cash in there. This is a public safety issue. Travis Mason was that young man's name. We don't need any more Travis Masons. It just doesn't make any sense in the world that we allow all of these establishments to be cash only, although they're not because there are work arounds. There are credit unions and banks that are figuring out ways to do this. It's expensive for the industry. They have to pay a premium for this, but there are plenty of banks and credit unions doing it. But not all.

Seth Adler: Right, so your legislation solves that.

Denny Heck: It does. There's been quite an evolution in this. When we started I can remember that the financial services sector was very resistant, but of course since then the Credit Union Association and the Independent Community Bankers Association have endorsed it. The ABA is trying to get there, but they've got some expectations that I don't think are going to be realistically achievable, so I'm not sure that we will get there. But we are moving in the right direction, and states continue to legalize some form of marijuana. Most recently Michigan I think was the big one to come in.

Seth Adler: Certainly.

Denny Heck: Missouri too?

Seth Adler: Yes, and Utah, which of course is-

Denny Heck: And Utah for medical marijuana

Seth Adler: Right. The first state that you think of when you think of cannabis.

Denny Heck: Where 98% of the population will not allow alcohol to touch their lips.

Seth Adler: Yeah, which is why that points out though that medical cannabis, that's not what we're talking about with medical cannabis. We're talking about epilepsy. We're talking about PTSD. We're talking about pain management.

Denny Heck: One of the most impactful experiences I had as a state legislator 40 years ago in the Washington state legislature, I'll never forget this, it was a debate on authorizing medical marijuana. This was in the late 70s. There was a very conservative member of the House who somehow got the goofy, gimmicky idea that he would roll a joint with an herb in it, put it in a baggie, and distribute one per desk on the floor, and then stand up and rail with righteous indignation and reefer madness type rhetoric about how awful it would be to open the door to this by legalizing medical marijuana. Very conservative.
A speaker or two later, another very conservative legislator stood up named Alex Deccio from Yakima, Washington. He was much more senior than the first person. I'll never forget, I sat toward the back. I was a newcomer, relative newcomer, as was the person who distributed the baggies, but Alex was more senior and he was towards the front. He stood up and he turned around and he pointed at the other member and said don't you dare. I watched my daughter suffer and die from the ravages of cancer and if there could have been anything that would have helped with her pain we would have done that. Don't you dare. It was genuinely one of the most emotional debates I had ever heard before or since. Especially in the states like Utah, which is how we got to this, that have medical marijuana, there is broadspread support for it. There really is ... Broadspread, widespread.

Seth Adler: Widespread.

Denny Heck: Broad and widespread.

Seth Adler: We have broadspread too.

Denny Heck: I did that the other day on TV. That's why I'm getting the evil eye over here.

Seth Adler: Well I feel like-

Denny Heck: Broadspread. Can we invent that word, broadspread.

Seth Adler: I feel like we should. Here's the thing, if we're making up words that aren't necessarily real, but we're doing it for a positive reason, why shouldn't we.

Denny Heck: I'm for it.

Seth Adler: You know how to deliver a message I'm noticing and you know how to speak along a narrative. This might have something to do with the fact that way back when, if I'm not mistaken, did you write and perform a one man one act play, or a one man play at least?

Denny Heck: I did.

Seth Adler: I don't know how many acts.

Denny Heck: It was two acts, '07, '08.

Seth Adler: What was this about?

Denny Heck: Well, I had long been in love with the art form of the one person play, inspired enormously by Hal Holbrook's rendition of Mark Twain, which I had seen multiple times as well as other performers. Hal Holbrook, who made that Mark Twain one man play famous, amazingly onboarded and memorized 12 to 14 hours of material, about two of which he would pick and choose for a given performance based on the chemistry with his audience.

Seth Adler: That's remarkable.

Denny Heck: It is remarkable.

Seth Adler: That's ...

Denny Heck: I was just enormously inspired by this. I thought it was so beautiful and so well done. So I had some things I wanted to say that I considered putting in book form. I also enjoy writing. I've written three books.

Seth Adler: One on education, I want to get to that.

Denny Heck: Yeah, and one right there actually.

Seth Adler: There we go.

Denny Heck: Lucky Bounce.

Seth Adler: Interesting.

Denny Heck: Still available on amazon.com and digital form. 100% of the proceeds are donated to low income scholarships.

Seth Adler: What is the bounce, in other words?

Denny Heck: Well-

Seth Adler: What's the message of the book?

Denny Heck: I've been lucky so many times in my life that I haven't deserved to that I can't even count them.

Seth Adler: Got it. All right.

Denny Heck: As I think I say in the preface, sometimes the ball bounces into your glove, and sometimes it bounces into your teeth. It's bounced into my glove a whole bunch.

Seth Adler: Look at that. All right. But three books.

Denny Heck: So the one man play. I had been invited to write a chapter in an anthology about the formative experiences in Washington state's history visa vie its politics, what did it go through that shaped its politics. I was fascinated by this idea, what is it that causes our political culture to be what it is and to evolve as it does. So I had an idea of, I didn't want to work with the guy who was the prime author because I had read another one of his books and it was terrible. I just didn't want to be associated with him. Good guy, but ...
So I decided maybe I can marry this idea and this art form I love. What I decided to do was write this play, in which I played me as a 90 year old. Lots of grease, let me tell you. If I never have makeup pancaked on again it will be too soon. In any event, the opening is I receive a letter from a senior at the Evergreen State College, a public arts liberal arts school in my hometown of Olympia, Washington. The letter goes, "Dear Mr. Heck, I'm writing my senior capstone thesis on Washington state's political history and the transformative events between the years 1975 and 2005. Since you're one of the few people left alive who actually lived through that period of time, would you explain to me what you think the transformative events were?"

Seth Adler: That's a good way in. I like it.

Denny Heck: It was basically me talking about those things, but I mixed a whole bunch of personal things into it as well. The end of the first act is a homage to my older brother who died as a result of his exposure to agent orange in Vietnam. I managed to work that in. There's a back story there about rehearsal, but I won't get into it.

Seth Adler: Right.

Denny Heck: But I enjoy writing very much. I'm working on an idea for a new book. We'll see if it gets anywhere.

Seth Adler: Quickly on the play, how much does location and weather play into how the state is governed, in all seriousness?

Denny Heck: Oh, it didn't at all, but that's certainly a provocative thought.

Seth Adler: Hmm okay. Maybe the next play.

Denny Heck: Yeah.

Seth Adler: As far as the other book, the education book, this is something that you, this is an important issue for you and I wondered why and how.

Denny Heck: Challenges and Opportunities-

Seth Adler: The name of the book.

Denny Heck: The Transformation of Washington's Education was written now more than, just over 30 years ago. I really wrote it in part because I was getting ready to run for superintendent of public instruction, which I had always wanted to do in the worst possible way. It turns out that's exactly how I ran. I was defeated by one vote per precinct the following year. But in any event it was just an opportunity for me to interview more than 100 people and to distill in book form where it was I thought the education system could and should go. It was a lot of fun. The interviews were a lot of fun.
The second book was a novel. That one's still available on Amazon as well. Again, all proceeds to low income scholarships. Then most recently the memoir.

Seth Adler: The Lucky Bounce. I wonder, because right over your shoulder here in your office there are three, not one, not two, but three statues of Ben Franklin. When I think of Ben Franklin there's an element of, well I should say there's an element of Ben Franklin in Mark Twain in my mind.

Denny Heck: Oh yeah.

Seth Adler: It just they feel-

Denny Heck: Folksy, wise.

Seth Adler: That type of thing.

Denny Heck: Yeah, Poor Richards Almanac.

Seth Adler: Yeah, well certainly. Why do you have at least one, or three, statues of, and they're small-

Denny Heck: I think these are actually awards from some-

Seth Adler: Oh excuse me. Aha. Okay.

Denny Heck: Association, which I won three years in a row.

Seth Adler: There we go. All right. So it's not just a, it's not because you really like Ben Franklin.

Denny Heck: No actually I really like George Washington. I'm very traditional.

Seth Adler: Okay. Very traditional, indeed.

Denny Heck: He's far and away my favorite president.

Seth Adler: The list of reasons would go on and on, but for you?

Denny Heck: No, there's only one.

Seth Adler: Okay?

Denny Heck: Because he voluntarily gave up virtually ultimate power not once, but twice. The most noble thing anybody can do. If you believe that the most enduring political wisdom in western civilization, as I do, is contained in Lord Acton's aphorism, all power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Then you look at somebody who has all this power who is basically offered to be the monarch at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War said no I'm going to go farm. When the Articles of Confederation [inaudible 00:17:11] didn't work out they made him president. At the end of two terms he said I'm out of here, I'm going back to my farm. He could have run and would have won a third term setting an incredibly important precedent in American history. He gave up power voluntarily. There's nothing more noble.

Seth Adler: As I'll do maybe a clumsy segue, as the minority becomes the majority in the House-

Denny Heck: As we're gaining power, not giving it up.

Seth Adler: Indeed, yeah. That's why it's clumsy. It's the inverse.

Denny Heck: Yes.

Seth Adler: But it's going to be a different Congress for that reason, let alone all of the new members who look and feel different than maybe some of the old members that are leaving. How do you feel about this, and the real question is what do you think can get done?

Denny Heck: My feeling of joy probably knows no bounds, but it is frankly rooted in my perspective, which I've shared repeatedly on national cable news programs so it's not especially original here with you, but very directly is this. Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be President of the United States. From that perspective, which I hold, it is critically important that we provide an Article I of the U.S. Constitution check and balance on him and hold him accountable for his behavior. For that reason alone, I feel pretty good about it. But I feel good about it as well because I think that we're going to have an increased opportunity to, for example, lower people's prescription drug prices and protect people who have preexisting conditions. If you look up there on the shelf-

Seth Adler: Sure. There's a beautiful child.

Denny Heck: An incredibly beautiful child looking out a bright red wooden window frame. She's-

Seth Adler: Less than two years old.

Denny Heck: Less than two years old with a couple of teeth on the lower jaw and beautiful red hair. Her name's Gracie.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Denny Heck: I can not enumerate to you the number of medical conditions Gracie had when she was born. The fact of the matter is that her grandmother, who lives in my district, Gracie doesn't, has told me on any number of times, number of occasions, the Affordable Care Act saved my granddaughter's life. I keep that up there as a reminder that Gracie, who has preexisting conditions, ought to be able to live the rest of her life knowing that she has access to affordable and quality healthcare. We might be able to do something on that.
We might be able to do something on rebuilding our nation's crumbling infrastructure. We're certainly going to give it a good old college try. And any number of things that I think are important to-

Seth Adler: I just, you pointed up to that picture. There's another picture of a Native American, obviously a fairly large community in Washington state, that's one reason. Any other reasons why we ...

Denny Heck: He was a dear friend of mine. That's an actual person.

Seth Adler: Oh okay.

Denny Heck: That's Billy Frank, Jr. He's been awarded the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor that can be given. Billy was a dear friend. We called him uncle, but in Indian country if you like somebody and you're close to them they're your uncle if they're a male. Billy died almost four years ago now I think. He was an iconic civil rights leader. In fact, he didn't win the Presidential Medal of Freedom for nothing. He basically spent the first part of his life as a radical and an agitator and a protester in furtherance of Indian treaty fishing rights, which were being denied to them.

Seth Adler: This was late 60s, early 70s. Is that right or now?

Denny Heck: Beginning in the 50s.

Seth Adler: Beginning of the 50s.

Denny Heck: I mean they always had been, but the movement began. Billy was arrested 69 times I think, 59 times.

Seth Adler: Crazy.

Denny Heck: Beaten any number of times by doing what the treaty rights that he had were supposed to have guaranteed to him. Have to remind my friends who don't understand why it is that the Indians in Washington state are entitled to half the harvestable catch is because that's what we promised them when we took all their land.

Seth Adler: Right, yeah.

Denny Heck: You know what, you don't get to unilaterally abrogate a treaty. Treaties exist in perpetuity and one side can't say just kidding I want to change the terms. If they could, I'm pretty sure my friends in Indian country would say just kidding give us back all our land and see ya later.

Seth Adler: Right.

Denny Heck: Anyways, Billy was a an incredible advocate for Indian fishing rights, which were ultimately affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court on any number of occasions beginning most notably with a decision called the Bolt decision. The U.S. Court of Appeals Judge named George Bolt, a trial at which he testified along with his father who lived to be over 100 years old. In fact, the turning point in the trial that is often said was when his father was called to the stand and wanted to testify in his first language, and the state objected to it strenuously and it offended Judge Bolt. He said no, guess what, he gets to testify in his language with an interpreter present. So he did and a lot of people think that that, they lost George when they thought to suppress him. I think Billy Sr. then was, well it was in the 70s, so he would have been in his 90s, 80s.

Seth Adler: So just kind of threading the needle here, we just passed the Farm Bill. I should say you just passed the Farm Bill on behalf of us, so thanks.

Denny Heck: You're welcome.

Seth Adler: I needed to know what was in it, specifically for hemp but just generally, and so I've been reading bills lately. What I've noticed is that it's always states and tribal territories, or tribal lands.

Denny Heck: Sure.

Seth Adler: It's remarkable to me that I have to be reminded of that history-

Denny Heck: But they have sovereignty.

Seth Adler: Indeed. In other words, we never talk or think about it. The reason I said late 60s early 70s is I've been watching some old Dick Cavett shows and it seems like it was part of the [inaudible 00:24:04], it was part of the conversation to talk about Native American rights at that time. We don't talk about that anymore. What are your thoughts on that?

Denny Heck: Well, I think we do. We certainly do in our state where we have not quite 30 different federally recognized tribes.

Seth Adler: Sure, not part of the national discourse necessarily.

Denny Heck: Yeah. There are something like over 600 tribes and they're not monolithic and their issues are different. For example, in the southwest the issue is water. In the northwest it's fish. They're kind of related, but it's not the same issue. Southwest it's who has the water rights and to what degree, and in the northwest it is quit doing things that kill all the fish because we have a treaty right to catch our fish. So they're different all over the country.

Seth Adler: So that makes it complex and that makes it more difficult right?

Denny Heck: Back to my play, one of the transformative events that I described was the passage of the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. I think I have the acronym right, but that allowed for Indian country to get into gaming. The consequence of that was that in the ensuing decade there was a faster drop in poverty in Indian country than among any other demographic group I believe in history because of the infusion of economic development and revenue and opportunities. Anyway, Billy passed about four years ago, but the point I wanted to make is that some time after the Bolt decision federal legislation passed creating something called the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. Billy was the chair of the board of it for 30 years plus. He went from the first part of his adulthood into middle age being a radical and a protester, arrested 59 times, to being the ultimate unifier and peace maker who was beloved by everybody.
That photo is up there, you cannot see it because it's over the lip of the shelf is, it says the Billy Frank, Jr. Tell Your Story Act. What I did is I changed the name of the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, which is between Olympia, Washington and Tacoma, Washington. It is one of the largest, or one of the most visited tourist sites in the Pacific Northwest, I changed its name to the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge because it was on the river there that he grew up, that he fished, that he got arrested at so many times.

Seth Adler: Well that-

Denny Heck: But he became a peace maker. There wasn't a person he met that didn't love and respect him.

Seth Adler: Two things. I want to come back to peace maker. First things first though, you mentioned economic opportunity. We've talked about healthcare and we've talked about the Farm Bill. Cannabis as an industry, as a manufacturing industry, as far as adding jobs, as far as adding money to the state coffers-

Denny Heck: Let's put this in perspective. For 2017 there was something like $3.7 billion in whiskey sales and $9 billion in marijuana sales. Right?

Seth Adler: There you go. And we haven't even started yet. We just opened the barn door. The horse has not even left the barn.

Denny Heck: Well we've got what 34, 35 states now. A majority of people in this country live in a state where some level of marijuana consumption-

Seth Adler: At least something, exactly.

Denny Heck: Yeah.

Seth Adler: So the economic opportunity is there. As far as peace maker is concerned, you mentioned the new Congress coming in and maybe what can be done about the current president, and I wonder how that message can come across peacefully. Does that make sense?

Denny Heck: No.

Seth Adler: There were states that voted for Democrats in the past that didn't vote for Democrats this time. There is a voting contingent that very much appreciates the approach of the current president.

Denny Heck: Yes.

Seth Adler: So I wonder how messaging can get through to maybe that voting block as opposed to just bounce off of it.

Denny Heck: I guess my premise in that regard, I think this is responsive to the spirit of your question, is that you never convert anybody by telling them they're either a racist or stupid.

Seth Adler: Yeah, that's a bad way to make a friend.

Denny Heck: Yeah. So to the degree ... I mean look, let's call it for what it is, probably one of the worst gaffs of the 2016 campaign was Secretary Clinton's reference to "basket of deplorables."

Seth Adler: There you go.

Denny Heck: You're not going to win anybody over with that, to say the least. I think where that conversation starts is you can't start it by insulting. I actually have long said that the single virtue in shortest supply in this town is humility. I also think it's the most important. The reason I think it's the most important is you can't really fully empathize with other people if you aren't being humble. It's pretty hard to imagine being able to communicate as effectively as possible, or to develop policy as effectively as possible, if you're not able to empathize. In fact, I think none other than President Roosevelt said the most important quality of leadership was to be empathetic. I think it's so important. So I think where this starts is trying to understand what it is that could cause people to be supportive of the president, and to get fully in tough with that-

Seth Adler: Indeed.

Denny Heck: Is at least a basis for conversation. There's some of this that's just not bridgeable because it's a philosophical difference.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Denny Heck: I get that. Those are good old fashioned political fights and they're healthy, but there's so much above and beyond that now that I think we have a lot of work to do on.

Seth Adler: No, absolutely. Congressman Joyce said something about the vitreal in the political discourse. When I talk to you or talk to Congressman Blumenauer, there's not a negative vibe in the room, nor is there with Congressman Joyce or Congressman Curbelo, who is leaving. But how can we get more of that?

Denny Heck: I get asked that question a lot back home by the bosses.

Seth Adler: Meaning the voters.

Denny Heck: The constituents, my bosses. I always tell them I want you to hold me accountable for my behavior in two regards. I don't promise to be perfect in this regard because I'm not perfect in every regard, but I invite you to hold me accountable. Here are the two touch stones that I as a member believe in and do my best to subscribe to. Number one, always be civil. Number two, always look for common ground. If more people practiced both of those things more often, and I wish I practiced them both more often, then I think we'd be a lot better off. But I think that's also true of everyday conversations that people who aren't elected officials.

Seth Adler: That's it. Yeah.

Denny Heck: Be civil, look for common ground.

Seth Adler: That's it. Me and the folks back home, we've got to do that too type of thing.

Denny Heck: Yeah.

Seth Adler: You know, extend a hand for a handshake as opposed to a balled up fist.

Denny Heck: One of the things that I have found disturbing of late is reading my high school Facebook page. Now we're all oldsters. We're all 66 years old. It's amazing to me that these people that I knew as children and grew up with at the drop of a hat can engage in the most unbelievable all capitalized screaming arguments online about basically, it usually comes down to the president.

Seth Adler: Yeah, but that's much easier to do, isn't this one of the issues, that's much easier to do digitally than it is if I'm sitting on the couch with you, which I'm doing right now. I mean how are we going to get to all caps. It'd be very difficult. I'd have to probably say something about a family member.

Denny Heck: Which one? I might join you.

Seth Adler: I can't wait to talk to you again. I've got three final questions. I'll tell you what they are and ask you them in order. In the meantime, what's most surprised you in cannabis? What's most surprised you in life? On the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song, that's got to be on there? But first things first, what has most surprised you in cannabis?

Denny Heck: In terms of working the issue?

Seth Adler: It's your question to take as you'd like.

Denny Heck: Okay. What has ... I'm a little bit of a victim here of my own bias.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Denny Heck: By that I mean my argument in favor of passage of Safe Banking Act really is predicated on this is common sense recognizing that reality out there that will make us safer. I'm surprised at those who are holding on so rigidly to the reefer madness perspective of the world because what I say to them is look, I get it, you vote no on legalizing marijuana. If that were in your state, you'd vote no. Maybe that was in your state, you vote no. If we had a vote here to deschedule it, you'd vote no. I get that. Safe Banking Access-

Seth Adler: Has nothing to do with that.

Denny Heck: Has nothing to do with that. But I can't get them, some, from here to there. We're growing in support and I think we're going to get there, I'm exceedingly optimistic, but it's like that surprises me that you don't understand this is about public safety. If you want to be against legalizing marijuana, go ahead.

Seth Adler: Absolutely.

Denny Heck: But this is not helping anything.

Seth Adler: This is not that. That's it. All right. What's most surprised you in life?

Denny Heck: Overall?

Seth Adler: Yeah. I mean there's the luckiness of course right, which we've referenced.

Denny Heck: Boy, deep thoughts by Jack Handy. We're really getting into it here dude. What has most surprised me-

Seth Adler: Indeed.

Denny Heck: In life. How am I surprised?

Seth Adler: Jack Handy, another writer by the way, just for the record.

Denny Heck: You know, that's such an important question I probably want to give it more thought, but what occurs to me is I am constantly surprised at my girlfriend's forbearance. Now my girlfriend, [inaudible 00:35:46], has doubled as my wife for 43 years. There are times I want to turn to her and go really Paula you're still putting up with me. I do not understand why. I'm having a hard time putting up with me.

Seth Adler: Right, yeah. I feel like my girlfriend would certainly understand that point of view, without question.

Denny Heck: And do you understand mine?

Seth Adler: I certainly do. I absolutely do, without question. On the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's got to be on there?

Denny Heck: Well that changes over time. Of late I find myself multiple times a week listening to what I consider to be the most beautiful heart wrenching ballad ever written, which is of course Danny Boy and a rendition by an Irish singer named John McDermott.

Seth Adler: Okay. Does it sound like Denny when he says it?

Denny Heck: No, it's Danny Boy. The pipes are calling.

Seth Adler: Indeed they are. Congressman Heck, thank you so much for your time. I can't wait to check up with you down the line.

Denny Heck: You're more than welcome. Thank you.

Seth Adler: And there you have the U.S. Congressman Denny Heck. Very much appreciate his time. Very much appreciate your time. Stay tuned.

Read the full transcript:

Become a member to access to webinars, quarterly reports, contributor columns, shows, excerpts, and complete podcast transcripts

Become a Member

Already a member? Login here.

Subscribe now to get every episode.

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