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Why the Cannabis Industry Deserves Better Than Dana Rohrabacher

Dana Rohrabacher shows remarkable compassion for the cannabis space. And a disturbing lack of empathy for many other vulnerable groups.

Mary Carreon

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Why the Cannabis Industry Deserves Better Than Dana Rohrabacher
Gage Skidmore/ Flickr

The cannabis industry idolizes Dana Rohrabacher. And, in many ways, he’s made it difficult not to revere him. He’s positioned himself as one of the leading political figures in the space by focusing on the reform of federal cannabis laws—the only area of politics the cannabis industry seemingly cares about. But, if this Administration’s taught us anything it’s that racism, discrimination, and inequality are synonymous with American culture—and they always have been. America is a breeding ground for these variants of hate, and it’s because of the politicians in power—including Rohrabacher.

But the Midterms showed Putin’s favorite Congressman no mercy. The Rohrabacher reign has officially ended, and everyone should be thrilled—particularly the cannabis industry. Sure, he’s done some phenomenal things for the cannabis movement, like craft an amendment that prohibits federal spending on medical dispensary raids. But when we look at the bigger picture of who Rohrabacher is and what he stands for, it’s difficult not to perceive his cannabis-related victories as a distraction from his Trump-infused agenda. Cannabis is essentially the vehicle through which Rohrabacher gleans support, and he does so specifically through the guise of compassion.

But how compassionate can a person with inherently bigoted and discriminatory views be? Furthermore, how is the cannabis industry supposed to free itself from the chains of criminal stigma when one of its leading figures is under investigation for collusion in the Russia scandal?

Lastly, have you seen the types of people who support Rohrabacher in District-48? As someone who’s lived there for the last decade— and had former co-workers assaulted by Neo-Nazis at a Trump rally in Huntington Beach—I can attest to the fact that D-48 is a hatchery of violent neanderthals.

The reality is that even though Rohrabacher’s out of Congress, he’s not going away. He’s still going to be a prominent figure in the cannabis space. Instead of being an active government official, he’s been relegated to an Antonio Villaraigosa-type: a shady politician leveraging cannabis for power and personal gain. But this isn’t the end for Rohrabacher: it’s the start of a whole new era.

Rohrabacher and Putin Sitting in a Tree…

Until Tuesday night, ol’ Rohrabacher was in Congress for nearly 30 years. The seven years leading up to his congressional debut were spent as Ronald Reagan’s speechwriter. So, he’s been eyebrows-deep in GOP ideology for the entirety of his career. But it was during his tenure in the White House (’81-’88) that the seeds were sewn for Rohrabacher’s relations with Russia, despite Reagan’s disdain toward the Soviets.

After getting elected to represent District-42 in 1988, Rohrabacher fought alongside Afghani’s in the Afghan civil war for a week and “pulverized a Soviet position outside of Jalalabad with about 50 120mm rockets,” in the name of defeating communism—not the Russians, he told Pacific Standard in an interview. Rohrabacher has since grown to respect his former foes so much that two decades ago, he got wasted with Vladimir Putin and drunkenly arm wrestled him over who won the Cold War, Rohrabacher told the LA Times.

Yet, we’re all somehow confused as to how and why Rohrabacher is Putin’s favorite Congressman. And we’re all somehow baffled by his pro-Russia stance. We’re also somehow shocked that he’s under investigation in the Russia scandal. But if you’ve followed Rohrabacher’s career at all, you’d know that he’s pretty much always been in bed with the Russians. Rohrabacher’s even maintained a long-standing relationship with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank. Torshin not only tried to set up a backdoor meeting between Trump and Putin during Trump’s campaign, but Torishin also has deep ties with the NRA and is an advocate for American conservatism.

Then, last February, it was revealed in a document that in 2013 Rohrabacher met with Paul Manafort, a long-time consultant for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. Manafort was also Trump’s campaign manager. The real kicker is that Rick Gates, Trump’s campaign deputy chairman, lied to the FBI about this meeting.

Why lie if there’s nothing to hide?

In 2017, the New York Times also reported that the FBI warned Rohrabacher that Putin’s government was trying to recruit him as an asset. Sure, maybe there’s nothing technically wrong with having relationships with unscrupulous figures. But you are who you surround yourself with.

Being Anti-LGBTQ is Not Compassion

As previously stated, it’s great Rohrabacher had the political wit to finagle enough government couch-cushion-change to protect medical cannabis dispensaries from federal raids. But let’s be real about this: that same political wit is the exact trait exploiting the cannabis industry.

For those who only know Rohrabacher because of cannabis, he might seem like someone who cares about the greater good of humanity. At speaking engagements, he addresses the ill children who need cannabis and the struggle parents face finding and administering oil. Rohrabacher argues that people have a human right to access the plant. He talks about the importance of Veterans having access to cannabis to preserve their mental health and war-related ailments—and he’s right.

Last May, however, Rohrabacher also told a group of real estate agents that homeowners should be able to refuse to sell their houses to people because of their sexual orientation.

“Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone [if] they don’t agree with their lifestyle,” Rohrabacher said in meeting with a delegation from the Orange County Association of Realtors, according to the Orange County Register.

Rohrabacher’s comments came in response to a question asked about the Fair and Equal Housing Act, a bill that would ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He said he wouldn’t support the bill.

Let us not forget that Prop. 215—the pioneering law enacted in ’96 authorizing the use of medical marijuana in California—was founded in part because cannabis provided significant relief for gays suffering from the debilitating effects of AIDS. It’s fundamentally twisted to spout-off about people deserving the right to freely use cannabis, but vehemently disapprove of queer and trans people—a group that has a strong presence in the cannabis space—having access to housing. Anyone who really cared about the cannabis community—the foundation of the industry—would have a deep respect for the LGBTQ community.

Unless, of course, your motivations are elsewhere.

The King of MAGA

Rohrabacher is a staunch Trump supporter. Like the president, Rohrabacher is also fiercely against immigration. When the world was clued-in on what America’s done to migrant families, the ex-Congressman said nothing. Rohrabacher did nothing. If he truly disagreed, he would have made a statement– the way many other government officials did. Instead, all we have to reference are his past remarks about standing with Trump on immigration issues.

Oh, and here’s what’s written on his website. He “opposes all efforts to legalize the status of those currently in the United States illegally” and wants to secure the country’s borders and keep anyone who’s illegally in the country from getting a job or receiving government benefits.

When Rolling Stone interviewed Rohrabacher after the separation of migrant families set the news cycle ablaze, he expressed his support for Trump. “I think that we look at him as our father—it is the family,” Rohrabacher told Rolling Stone. “We like him. With all of his personality displays that make people mad at him on the outside, the Republicans are beginning to really like him for all of that.”

Regardless of your stance on immigration, permanently separating children from their families is inhumane. Full stop.

The Cannabis Industry Deserves Better

We’ve gone over a lot here, but we’ve only laid out a sliver of why Rohrabacher’s problematic. We didn’t even get into the fact he’s a climate change denier. Or that his congressional aid in 2008 molested children. Or that he gave his wife more than 50 percent of his congressional campaign donations, which was revealed in 2011.

It’s difficult to watch someone with such hate-ridden views receive overwhelming support from an industry full of empathetic, loving people. And although Rohrabacher’s not the only questionable politician leveraging cannabis for public support (and campaign donations), he’s the one who’s arguably made the most waves. No one can deny that he’s done a lot for cannabis. And that’s what makes the situation so devastating: looking at the scope of who Rohrabacher is, the negatives far outweigh the positive.

Federal prohibition of cannabis will be lifted with or without Rohrabacher at this point. The movement is unstoppable. But we’re living in a country that enables hate–and he’s a part of the problem. For the love of all that’s green, we must stop supporting racist politicians who, although might be pro-cannabis, also push a catalog of archaic and ignorant dogmas.

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