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Ep. 415: US Congressman Seth Moulton

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep. 415: US Congressman Seth Moulton

Ep. 415: US Congressman Seth Moulton

Congressman Seth Moulton shares his experience as a Marine throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s and how it connects to cannabis today. Many veterans come back from service with heavy baggage, causing them to suffer physically and mentally. While cannabis can help with these problems, its legal status keeps veterans from having a conversation about it with their healthcare providers. The good news is that what was once a very partisan issue is now seeing more support from all sides, especially now that its benefits for veterans are coming to light.

Transcript:

Seth Adler: U.S. Congressman Seth Moulton joins us, welcome to Cannabis Economy, I'm your host, Seth Adler. Download episodes on canneconomy.com or wherever you currently get your podcasts. First a word from Evolab and then U.S. Congressman Seth Moulton.

Speaker 2: Top four out of five vapes in Colorado, so we can clearly say Colorado's favorite vape, Evolab obviously has a whole suite of products for fresh herbs and of course our alchemy line and Chroma. We introduced colors not too long ago, which is a flavored line of vapes. We've mastered that and we do that really, really well. So we've taken that a little bit further. We've used that technology and then we applied it to a line of products under CBX Sciences for topicals, sublinguals, and other delivery mechanisms including a line of vape of course, because we can't ignore that.

Seth Adler: Congressman Seth Moulton, love the name by the way.

Seth Moulton: Seth is a great name, at least our mothers agree on that.

Seth Adler: Absolutely. And the only difference, well there is two differences, you're a congressman, I'm not. You're a former marine, I'm not. And then everything else about us I'm sure is extremely similar.

Seth Moulton: Splitting mirror image.

Seth Adler: Exactly. Thank you very much for your service, sir.

Seth Moulton: I appreciate that, thank you.

Seth Adler: What is this that I hear about never forget versus thank you for your service? Because whenever I see someone in uniform or that I know has served, I always say thank you. What's the never forget thing?

Seth Moulton: Well I mean, they're both important. Certainly never forget what's happened in our past and the fact that there are troops out there on the front lines tonight, tomorrow, day in, day out keeping us safe. I actually just got a news alert that several American troops were killed in Syria. And I think a lot of Americans forget that we're even there. That we have troops in Syria. We still have troops in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history. That we still have troops in Iraq. And that we have troops all over Africa and Asia and around the globe who are doing important work. And they're risking their lives to try to keep us safe. So I appreciate that.
There's different debates among veterans about what the appropriate way is to thank a vet for his or her service. It's just nice to know that people appreciate it.

Seth Adler: Start with acknowledgement, choose your own adventure from there, you should be okay type of thing?

Seth Moulton: And I think also the whole point that I think most Americans agree with now that you don't have to agree with a war to appreciate the fact that someone is willing to serve. You don't have to agree with our development policy in Africa to appreciate the fact that someone is willing to go to the Peace Corps and serve there for a year.

Seth Adler: If you're going to send them you go to support them.

Seth Moulton: If they're willing to be volunteers, we need more volunteers, not fewer in America today. We need more people who believe in serving the country rather than trying to tear it apart. And if young people are willing to do that, whether it's in the military or the Peace Corps or City Year, AmeriCorps, Teach for America, whatever it is, that's great. I mean you won't find a bigger supporter of national service and getting more people to have the opportunity to serve their country than me. I think it would make us a stronger nation.

Seth Adler: Unfortunately you mentioned service members that have lost their lives in Syria today. We have an epidemic of sorts when veterans come back. The old number was 22, I think the new number is 20. What am I talking about?

Seth Moulton: You're talking about veteran suicide, which is in some ways one of the worst things that could happen. But even if a veteran doesn't get to the point of taking his or her life, they're suffering. A lot of veterans are suffering a lot of veterans are struggling with post traumatic stress, they're struggling with physical, mental injuries from their service overseas. And my bottom line is very simple. We should be giving veterans the best healthcare in the world period. That's it, no exceptions, no caveats, best healthcare in the world period.

Seth Adler: U.S. Congressman Seth Moulton joins us, welcome to Cannabis Economy, I'm your host, Seth Adler. Download episodes on canneconomy.com or wherever you currently get your podcasts. First a word from Evolab and then U.S. Congressman Seth Moulton.

Speaker 2: Top four out of five vapes in Colorado, so we can clearly say Colorado's favorite vape, Evolab obviously has a whole suite of products for fresh herbs and of course our alchemy line and Chroma. We introduced colors not too long ago, which is a flavored line of vapes. We've mastered that and we do that really, really well. So we've taken that a little bit further. We've used that technology and then we applied it to a line of products under CBX Sciences for topicals, sublinguals, and other delivery mechanisms including a line of vape of course, because we can't ignore that.

Seth Adler: Congressman Seth Moulton, love the name by the way.

Seth Moulton: Seth is a great name, at least our mothers agree on that.

Seth Adler: Absolutely. And the only difference, well there is two differences, you're a congressman, I'm not. You're a former marine, I'm not. And then everything else about us I'm sure is extremely similar.

Seth Moulton: Splitting mirror image.

Seth Adler: Exactly. Thank you very much for your service, sir.

Seth Moulton: I appreciate that, thank you.

Seth Adler: What is this that I hear about never forget versus thank you for your service? Because whenever I see someone in uniform or that I know has served, I always say thank you. What's the never forget thing?

Seth Moulton: Well I mean, they're both important. Certainly never forget what's happened in our past and the fact that there are troops out there on the front lines tonight, tomorrow, day in, day out keeping us safe. I actually just got a news alert that several American troops were killed in Syria. And I think a lot of Americans forget that we're even there. That we have troops in Syria. We still have troops in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history. That we still have troops in Iraq. And that we have troops all over Africa and Asia and around the globe who are doing important work. And they're risking their lives to try to keep us safe. So I appreciate that.
There's different debates among veterans about what the appropriate way is to thank a vet for his or her service. It's just nice to know that people appreciate it.

Seth Adler: Start with acknowledgement, choose your own adventure from there, you should be okay type of thing?

Seth Moulton: And I think also the whole point that I think most Americans agree with now that you don't have to agree with a war to appreciate the fact that someone is willing to serve. You don't have to agree with our development policy in Africa to appreciate the fact that someone is willing to go to the Peace Corps and serve there for a year.

Seth Adler: If you're going to send them you go to support them.

Seth Moulton: If they're willing to be volunteers, we need more volunteers, not fewer in America today. We need more people who believe in serving the country rather than trying to tear it apart. And if young people are willing to do that, whether it's in the military or the Peace Corps or City Year, AmeriCorps, Teach for America, whatever it is, that's great. I mean you won't find a bigger supporter of national service and getting more people to have the opportunity to serve their country than me. I think it would make us a stronger nation.

Seth Adler: Unfortunately you mentioned service members that have lost their lives in Syria today. We have an epidemic of sorts when veterans come back. The old number was 22, I think the new number is 20. What am I talking about?

Seth Moulton: You're talking about veteran suicide, which is in some ways one of the worst things that could happen. But even if a veteran doesn't get to the point of taking his or her life, they're suffering. A lot of veterans are suffering a lot of veterans are struggling with post traumatic stress, they're struggling with physical, mental injuries from their service overseas. And my bottom line is very simple. We should be giving veterans the best healthcare in the world period. That's it, no exceptions, no caveats, best healthcare in the world period.

Seth Adler: Who could be against that?

Seth Moulton: But we're not doing it.

Seth Adler: Exactly.

Seth Moulton: We're not doing it.

Seth Adler: So let's dive in on cannabis, you've got three bills. You found a friend in Matt Gates who I've interviewed here, not necessarily agreeing on every single thing.

Seth Moulton: Far from it.

Seth Adler: Maybe only agreeing on this.

Seth Moulton: No, there's a lot we probably agree on, but you debate the things that you disagree on. But there's no question that we're on the same page with cannabis. And part of it is I just look at these vets who are using it and it's helping. And there are studies that show this. There are statistics that show this. I also just got a lot of friends who tell me this. A lot of vets who know that it helps. And many of them are choosing it not only because it works, but because they don't want to get addicted to opioids. They don't want to get involved in other sorts of medicines. They don't want to just down the bottles and bottles of pills that the VA gives them that have all sorts of side effects.
There's a Marine in my platoon, in my 2nd Platoon, a real hero in Iraq. Saved another Marine's life in a really tough situation in [inaudible 00:05:08] in 2004. He came back, he got out, it wasn't an easy transition. He missed the sense of purpose that he had in the Marines, and so he actually went to nursing school. Because he said, "I want to save lives back home the way I did overseas." He graduated, he got a great job. I mean ostensibly everything was going well for him. But he was still struggling with post traumatic stress as anyone might from an experience like that. And he went to the VA, but rather than give him the counseling that he wanted, they just gave him a bunch of pills. They gave him so many pills that he had a heart attack at the age of 30 just from taking the pills that the VA prescribed him. And I have to think that if he first of all got the counseling. Or second of all maybe had some cannabis instead of all of these crazy pills, that he would still be with us today.

Seth Adler: And so you've got kind of three approaches here. Number one is counseling. So let's just let him talk. Number two is study, let's send out a survey, let's figure out what's going on. And number three is hey you know what? If we're going to give him the pills, why don't we just also have the opportunity to give him the cannabis?

Seth Moulton: Yeah and be able to explain to the healthcare providers at the VA how to talk about this and what it does and what the benefits are. A lot of veterans are independently on their own finding cannabis because they know it's better than these pills or it helps them. But then they go to the VA and they're scared to talk about it because they don't know if the federally run VA is going to get them in trouble for using it. So Matt and I want to make it very clear to everybody, to veterans, to healthcare providers, that if you're using cannabis, you should talk about it. What if there is some conflict with some of the medicines they are prescribing you?
You should be able to have an honest transparent conversation with your healthcare provider so that they can give you better healthcare. These are cray ideas.

Seth Adler: You're way out on the fringe with that. I just do want to take this tributary from this conversation. As far as being able to talk about this, as far as being able to, you're just talking to your healthcare provider. We have the VA. Everything in government isn't perfect, but if there's one department that should be able to run seamlessly, especially with all of you guys that I know are very good with being organized, how is it possible that we have these issues and it doesn't matter who the president is. It doesn't matter what the administration is. It's for essentially our entire lifetimes. We're almost identical ages. How is this possible that the VA doesn't run like anything else in the military for that matter?

Seth Moulton: Well obviously the VA isn't actually in the military. It's not the military healthcare system, it's the veteran's healthcare system. It's important to acknowledge that there are some things the VA does very well. And if you look at their outcome statistics, if you really look at okay, what are the chances that I get a good outcome by going to the VA for my healthcare as opposed to somewhere else? On average they actually do very well. And I made a commitment when I got elected to continue getting my healthcare at the VA. I feel very confident in the primary care physician I have, all the specialists I've had to see for whatever checkup or whatever it is. I go get my hearing checked because a lot of guys in the infantry have hearing problems or whatever. I felt they really knew what they were doing.
In fact the VA in Boston gets all these fellows from the medical schools and everything. I mean really top in the world. So there are amazing people at the VA who are doing great work. But then of course, you also have places like this hospital in Phoenix, which was keeping people on waiting lists until they died. And so part of this is just getting everybody in line. And there's a lot of bureaucracy in the way of doing that. There are also places where the political debates that happen in Congress really do matter and do affect the ability of the VA to do it's job. And this is one of them.
The VA should be out there prescribing cannabis if it's something that helps veterans. But it's the bureaucrats in Washington, it's really my colleagues in Congress who won't pass these bills to get it done. So these are reforms where it does matter who is in the oval office. It does matter who's in Congress. You're going to have people who are going to push for reform at the VA or you're going to have people who just let it go and continue with it's bureaucratic bungles.

Seth Adler: In discovering further how you are working with your colleagues in Congress, I want to go back to your military experience. I know that you don't love to talk about it. But for us, it's very informative, and I'll hope you'll understand that.
So you were one of the first ones in, in Iraq. And I think I read that at least your father and mother didn't necessarily have military service? Is that correct?

Seth Moulton: No they didn't.

Seth Adler: So you're not coming from a military family. And you're jumping in here. It was before 9/11 that you jumped in, correct? So it wasn't even precipitated by that terrible event. Why? What is it in you?

Seth Moulton: That's a great question. I decided to serve before 9/11 because I just wanted to do something to give back to my country. And when I looked around at all of the different options and appreciated all of the privileges that I had gotten in my life growing up in a middle class family, getting to go to college and all of that. I just had so much respect for these 18, 19, some 17 year old kids who go out there and put their lives on the line for the country. And I decided, you know what? If they're willing to do that, I'll do that too. And there's a wall in my college church that just has name after name of young men and a few young women who lost their lives in World War II. And it's pretty powerful to look at that and say to yourself they were willing to to that, maybe I should be willing to do that too.
So then 9/11 happened and I think my parents ironically thought that I would change my mind. I said, no, no, this is the point. This is when I want to be going there so no one has to go in my place. And it didn't mean I agree with the war either. I remember sitting in Kuwait, ah this isn't going to happened, come on. We're not really going to. I lost the bet.
And then I was very outspoken about the war. I wrote, the first time I got anything published in the New York Times was an op-ed very critical of our approach in 2006. And so I've been willing to speak out, but I also know that I was able to make a difference on the ground and the lives of fellow Americans and the lives of a lot of Iraqi's that we worked with. Many of whom became my friends.

Seth Adler: So there gets to the dialogue. So you were, if I'm correct, you were in essence promoted to be someone that was in charge of communications at least in part.

Seth Moulton: I don't know if it was promotion or not.

Seth Adler: Okay, fair enough. But they saw in you someone that could communicate with tribal leaders, is that right?

Seth Moulton: Well yes, so there was a couple of things that happened in this realm. I'm not sure what you're getting at. Right after the invasion in 2003, there was no plan for the reconstruction as well all know now. It was horribly haphazard.

Seth Adler: Some of us assumed, but now we definitely know.

Seth Moulton: We definitely know. So different young guys like me, second lieutenants were assigned to work with the fire department or the agriculture department, get the police back up and running. And I had this odd job of being assigned to the Iraqi media. So I started working with the nascent Iraqi press corps. Which basically they didn't exist as free press before. We had a TV station that I was sort of put in charge of. All they ever did was play tapes from the ministry of information in Baghdad. So it was a really amazing job because I had to teach them the basics of a free press. And by the way, this was not covered in my Marine training.
But it is worth saying in this contested political environment that we're in right now, that there was 2003, the United States Marine Corps said, well if we got to set up a democracy, we need a free press.

Seth Adler: One of the first orders of business.

Seth Moulton: First orders of business. And so we worked with them. I ended up co-hosting a TV show Moulton and Mohammed.

Seth Adler: Moulton and Mohammed, yeah.

Seth Moulton: Which was amazing. You don't have to sign autographs as a member of Congress very often, but every time I went out in public in Iraq, get vans and everything, it was great.

Seth Adler: I wanted to see video of that. I tried to look for it, I don't know if it can be found anywhere.

Seth Moulton: I'm not sure it can. I'm not sure it can.

Seth Adler: What were some of the discussion points though? Obviously I have a keen interest in such things.

Seth Moulton: Well we would do investigative journalism basically on why is there no electricity. And by the way, some of the old Iraqi politicians were like you shouldn't be exposing this. This isn't the way you control a populous. No, this is called freedom of the press. And people loved it. They loved actually okay, I've never seen the inside of the power plant. I never understood why we have power sometimes during the day and then in the afternoon it goes off. And now I sort of get that. And we tried to expose some of the things that are going wrong. And people just lapped it up. So it was great, but in the process, we were also showing these Iraqi future journalists, or I guess journalists, they technically were, even though, they weren't free how to operate in a free press. How to do good reporting.
We had our pitfalls though too. One of the first things we had to do was just simply get something on TV when the Ministry of Information shut down operations. So we bought them a DVD player and connected it to this massive transmitter and they used to play American pirated movies. And they would play them and watch them. But they're watching them for the first time as they're broadcasting them to millions of Iraqis. So we made a mistake when we didn't explain the rating system to them.
One night they put in Basic Instinct.

Seth Adler: Oh boy, how did that out of all the movies?

Seth Moulton: Well they were showing a lot of movies. What they did is they would usually hit eject if it got to some part of the film that they were like this is not appropriate for our Iraqi audience. And they had this 10 volume history of Islam set of videos that they would put in to calm everybody down. But a lot of the people thought it was boring. Well in any event, this night they didn't switch quickly enough. The next day there were literally protests in front of city hall. Mohammed and I received death threats.
We're not picking the movies, mind you, but they see us as the face of the TV station, it was a great lesson in leadership. The governor was upset, my battalion was furious, how did this happen? At the end of the day we said we just need a break. So we went to get tea with the Iraqi police figuring that these are guys in their 20s and 30s, surely they weren't so offended by Basic Instinct.
But Mohammed and I walked in that room and I'll never forget, it was a room full of 50 angry, furious young men. And as soon as they saw me, the started yelling at me. And I turned to Mohammed and I said, "What are they saying?"
And he said, "Sir they say every time you put a movie on TV, you put it off right when we get to the good part."

Seth Adler: Nah, for real?

Seth Moulton: Yes, they literally said that.

Seth Adler: I figured you walk in, you're the American face, I'm going to yell at you for everything. No, no, no.

Seth Moulton: The old people were definitely saying that.

Seth Adler: Wow, not the young people, interesting.

Seth Moulton: You can't win.

Seth Adler: Alright so that's kind of profiles in courage. You have a library there in your office. When you walk in, there's a tremendous amount of different kinds of perspectives. And obviously there are great military leaders profiled in books. You got Teddy Roosevelt, you got Ike, well then there's of course-

Seth Moulton: Churchill and things up there.

Seth Adler: Churchill with the help of god and a few marines. What lessons from those folks that have served in politics as well as on the battlefield do you bring forth?

Seth Moulton: I think the best leaders are just willing to stand up for their principles. And they not only have the physical courage that's celebrated, especially in the military, but they have real moral courage to do the right thing, no matter what the circumstance. To not cave to political pressure, to just do what's popular for your party at the moment or whatever, rather than what's right for the Americans that you represent. And that's I think the most important lesson that I try to take from these leaders. Many of whom have books on my bookshelf because they did great things. But all of whom when through really tough times as well.

Seth Adler: So podcast land knows no time. We happen to be in a government shutdown at the time that we are speaking. Eliminate all of the personalities, speak nothing of anyone that is negotiating or not negotiating at this moment, please. Border security is the issue right? What's a solution as far as Seth is concerned?

Seth Moulton: I think border security is important. I just think building a 5th century wall is really stupid and it's a waste of money. So what we ought to be doing is talking about 21st century border security. And we ought to be pairing it with a lot of other parts of our immigration system that are broken. When you go down and spend time at the border and you talk to refugees. When you talk to illegal immigrants, people who have come over, by getting through the border. When you talk to customs and border officials who are charged with stopping them. When you talk to ICE agents, whoever, nobody says a wall will fix this. Everybody says the system is broken top to bottom. So we need to take care of Dreamers. We need to give them a pathway to citizenship. We need to make sure that TPS holders, these are people from places like El Salvador who are parts of our community right now, are able to stay.
We need to make sure that American businesses can get the immigrant labor that they need to stay in business. We need to make sure that we have a system that fundamentally incentivizes people to want to come here legally, rather than have to come here illegally. These are all things that we need to fix. So what we should be doing is talking about a big deal to fix immigration, not a silly little deal to build a wall.

Seth Adler: I feel like we stumbled upon something that you might have discussed before. I want to point out your colleagues in the Coast Guard who as of today, again podcast land knows no time, are serving without getting paid.

Seth Moulton: They're serving without getting paid. And of course, ironically, what are they doing? They're protecting our country. They're doing boarder security. They're doing boarder security on the high seas, but that's exactly what their mission is. And when you go up to the Coast Guard base, in fact the Coast Guard was actually founded in Newbury Port, that was the original Coast Guard base. Gloucester has a big Coast Guard contingent. These are all cities in my district.

Seth Adler: In Massachusetts.

Seth Moulton: In Massachusetts, and they're doing important work every single day. And let's be honest, a lot of it involves border security. It just shows how stupid this shutdown is and why we've got to move past it and really find the political courage to take on the challenge of immigration and fix it from top to bottom.

Seth Adler: So this whole thing is about immigration, you see that?

Seth Moulton: Yeah, I don't think it's just about the wall. It's about immigration. And I recognize the fact that we do have a broken immigration system. I'm not sitting here telling you we shouldn't build a wall and we shouldn't do anything else. No, I'm saying the wall is a waste of money, but there are a lot of things we do need to fix here. And Democrats and Republicans ought to come together to get that done.

Seth Adler: I'm getting the hook, so I have to give you the three final questions. I'll tell you what they are and then I'll ask you them in order. What's most surprised you in cannabis? And you might have talked about it with discussions with your fellow veterans and what you heard them say about the plan. What's most surprised you in life? Which I can't wait to hear. And on the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's got to be on there, we'll get to that. What's most surprised you in cannabis?

Seth Moulton: I think what's most surprised me in cannabis is how this started as a very partisan issue where the left was for it and the right was against it. Now a lot of people are recognizing that this is just a good thing. And so we ought to be able to get this done. And look, people are going to keep using it, so let's make it legal and regulate it rather than pretend that it doesn't exist or pretend that it's going to go away if we have laws against it.

Seth Adler: If your current neighbors, Earl Blumenauer and David Joyce both agree on this, we're getting somewhere if you and Matt Gates agree, we're getting somewhere. With a hat tipped to your own friend at [inaudible 00:22:09], right?

Seth Moulton: That's right, absolutely.

Seth Adler: Nextdoor neighbor. Former nextdoor neighbor.

Seth Moulton: Former nextdoor neighbor, yeah we moved down.

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

Seth Moulton: How quickly I fell in love with my daughter who is just three months old now. I have a lot of friends I've known for much longer than three months. But I miss this girl every time I come down to Washington for work.

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

Seth Moulton: Oh I don't know.

Seth Adler: It's got to be something from like Aerosmith, right?

Seth Moulton: Maybe. I'll tell you, Texas country, Pat Green, Wave on Wave was our campaign song in 2014 because it was just sort of like we're going to keep going no matter what. I don't know that's the first one that comes to mind.

Seth Adler: Let's do that, right? Why not? Congressman Moulton, thank you very much. Seth, I'm very pleased that we share the name, how about that?

Seth Moulton: Absolutely.

Seth Adler: I look forward to checking in with you down the line.

Seth Moulton: Thanks, keep up the great work.

Seth Adler: And there you have, U.S. Congressman, Seth Moulton. Very much appreciate his service. Very much appreciate your time.

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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.