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DEA Shouldn’t Be In Charge Of Marijuana Rescheduling Decision, Jesse Ventura Says



Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura isn’t planning to run for elected office again in the foreseeable future, choosing instead to commit his “total focus” to his newly launched cannabis brand. But if he was running, he tells Marijuana Moment that he’d make cannabis legalization a top campaign issue to align with the uniquely “loyal” base of consumers eager for reform.

And if he had it his way, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would not be the agency making drug scheduling decisions.

It wasn’t always the case that politicians felt comfortable courting the marijuana community. Ventura knows that all too well. Back when he came out in favor of legalization while running for governor, the Independence Party told him—incorrectly—that he “blew the entire election” by embracing what was at the time a controversial topic that few elected officials were willing to broach. But voters ultimately rewarded him—an early sign that the public might not consider marijuana the polarizing issue that many lawmakers made it out to be.

“It didn’t hurt me a bit,” Ventura told Marijuana Moment. “It actually, I think in the end, strengthened me because it showed the public I have balls enough to bring up topics that were real in life and not be the typical politician and sweep them under the rug and run from them.”

Today support for legalization is at a record high, with bipartisan majorities in favor of ending prohibition. Nearly half of the states in the nation have legalized marijuana for adult use. And Ventura is proud to now be making history again as the first major political figure to launch a cannabis brand with his name and likeness on it.

For now, Jesse Ventura Farms is a hemp business, offering a line of cannabis products that are available nationwide since the crop is federally legal as long as it contains no more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. But once Minnesota regulators begin licensing recreational marijuana businesses under the state’s legalization law that’s being implemented, he says he intends to expand the state-level operation.

“We’re going to participate in every aspect of the cannabis business, and I look forward to it,” he said.

Ventura spoke with Marijuana Moment last week about his cannabis legacy, the evolving politics of marijuana, his new brand and more. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Marijuana Moment: You’ve been in this game for decades. What does it feel like to see how far marijuana reform has come in Minnesota and nationwide?

Jesse Ventura: It’s wonderful. I actually have experience with marijuana that goes back to 1969—the end of the 60s—and throughout my life. Coming from there to where we’re at today, it’s wonderful. It’s just frustrating to think, “My God, it took over 50 years.” It took over 50 years to educate the public to the point where they could get past all of this propaganda from William Randolph Hearst and finally legalize a plant that is a medical plant to begin with.

I’ve already said publicly, I think the people that banned marijuana should be put in prison.

MM: Most states have legalized cannabis in some form, but federal law still prohibits it. When do you think that’s going to change?

JV: Probably when we elect a president who’s not in their 70s. I’m saying that a little tongue-in-cheek, but if I were either one of these candidates [President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump], I would immediately advocate that you would legalize it and drop the federal everything because there are so many cannabis users. Look at all the votes you’d get.

MM: To that point, a recent poll showed about one in five American adults are regular marijuana consumers who’ve used it 10 or more times in the past month.

JV: As a person who knows about getting elected and how dynamic one out of five, 20 percent is, wow. I mean, if I were running right now, cannabis would be one of my major issues, because that’s the one thing about cannabis smokers that I’ve learned through the years is we’re all very loyal to each other.

MM: President Biden has been leaning into cannabis reform, albeit maintaining his opposition to broad legalization. But what do you think the chances are that Trump embraces the issue ahead of the election?

JV: I don’t know if Trump would have the courage to do that because it would depend on how much kickback there would be from the evangelical right. That, of course, is the core of his group. He’s not going to do much to offend the core group, and him coming out saying he will drop the federal laws against cannabis, well, that could be a negative with his core group.

MM: You’ve championed reform for decades, but why did you decide to enter the cannabis industry now?

JV: Because the time is right. And for me, it’s because it’s a personal issue. Cannabis, marijuana—let me make a blunt statement—saved my life.

And when I say that, I don’t mean me directly. But I’ve been married, it’ll be 49 years this summer. And what happened was, a decade ago, my wife developed late-in-life epileptic seizure disorders. In other words, my wife was seizing two to three times a week. And these were the type of seizures where you’re holding her, she’s on the floor, you’re cradling her head, making sure she’s not swallowing her tongue, ensuring she’s breathing. These were the type of seizures that are life-threatening.

We went to the doctor, and the doctors put her on four different types of seizure medicines, one after the other after the other after the other. None of them worked. They all had horrible side effects. In desperation, I learned about cannabis, and marijuana was having success stopping seizures. At the time, Colorado was the only state that had decriminalized. We physically drove to Colorado. We had friends there from Mexico. We drove to Colorado. The night before we got there, my wife had a seizure. We got to Colorado, my friends illegally went in and bought what was needed, drops under the tongue, came out and my wife illegally took them because we were not Colorado citizens. I can proudly say she has not had a seizure since.

It’s cannabis, marijuana, that did it and did it by itself. That’s why Jesse Ventura is totally focused now. This is the focus. I’m not focusing on movies. I don’t focus on politics. I’m joining Willie Nelson. I don’t want any family to have to go through what I did.

MM: There’s bipartisan support for legalization now. But when you first endorsed the reform, it was a different story. How was your support at the time received?

JV: Well, initially, the Independence Party said I blew the entire election. “You blew it. You’ve lost it. There’s no hope.”

And my friend, [former Sen. Dean Barkley] walked into the room, smoking his cigar, sat down in the chair and looked over at me and says, “Well, he said, how do we take this lemon and turn it into lemonade?”

And I looked at Dean and said, “Dean, I don’t know. Help me. What do we do?”

Dean says, “I got it.” He said, “We’re going out to the press and saying you’re the only candidate with enough balls and enough guts to bring up real life problems and you’re the only one with the courage and guts to talk about it.”

And that’s what we did. And the people [agreed] completely. They said, ‘Yeah, here’s a guy who will talk about problems and will be honest and forthcoming about them. It didn’t hurt me a bit. It actually, I think in the end, strengthened me because it showed the public I have balls enough to bring up topics that were real in life and not be the typical politician and sweep them under the rug and run from them.

MM: Right now your business is selling hemp products. Do you have any plans to expand to marijuana once Minnesota begins accepting licensing applications under the legalization law?

JV: We will be we will absolutely participate. We’re going to participate in every aspect of the cannabis business. And I look forward to it.

MM: Biden has issued marijuana pardons and initiated the cannabis scheduling review that’s now being carried out by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Can I get your thoughts about that process?

JV: I guess the first thing that I did was I had to scratch my head and go, “Why is the DEA, the enforcement people, allowed to make the decisions on whether it should be legal or not?”

I mean, excuse me, they have the biggest conflict of interest of anybody on the planet, right? Because if they keep it illegal, that means they stay in business and they get way more money allocated to them by the federal government to continue to go out and bust people for cannabis. How come they’re the deciding agency?

Excuse my French, but that’s bullshit. You know, that’s like putting the police in charge of lawmaking. You elect people to make laws. The police merely enforce the law. Why are you allowing the enforcer of the law to make the law?

MM: Minnesota lawmakers have also recently explored psychedelics reform, creating a task force to explore possible regulations for substances like psilocybin? Are you in favor of that kind of reform as well?

JV: Like anything, when you bridge things like that, you’re giving responsibility to the people to conduct themselves accordingly. Now, you have to remember, some people are not going to do that. So you are going to have, for lack of better term, casualties. And it all depends upon society itself. Are they ready for the responsibility?

I don’t think hallucinogenics, where you actually see things that aren’t there, like the mushrooms and things like that—I’m not too sure that they should be openly sold. I think that there should be a little bit more stipulation.

If you’re high on pot and drive in the car, you’re probably driving under the speed limit for the most part in my experience. The other things that make you see things that don’t exist, that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. So you run the risk with hallucinogenics of people operating equipment and cars and things of that nature where you would really have to be on top of it so that that things like that wouldn’t happen.

I don’t think it should necessarily be against the law. You shouldn’t go to jail. But I think the mechanism of getting hallucinogenics, there’s a spot where you probably need to show a good ID and have a reason for it.

MM: Is there anything else you’d like to add about you current work?

JV: I’d like to say is that I’m super proud of our product. The taste of the product is fantastic. And I also want to tell people that we’re not just doing this for profit. A lot of this stuff is going to have charitable and good things are going to come out of it.

The other thing personally for me, I’ve got all these multiple careers, but I have one more goal now. I want to be recognized, like Paul Newman is for spaghetti sauce. You have an entire generation of people out there that have no idea what a great actor Paul was or that he raced cars. The fact is they know him as the guy on the spaghetti sauce.

I want Jesse Ventura to be known as the cannabis man. That’s it. That’s my new goal. I want to achieve the status Paul Newman has achieved with his spaghetti sauce and his food products. I want to achieve that same status with my marijuana, cannabis, joining Willie Nelson.

More Biden Voters Than Trump Voters Want To Live Where Marijuana Is Legal, But Majorities In Both Parties Support Legalization

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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