A Republican senator said in a floor speech on Wednesday that the marijuana and hemp industries in Colorado are helping the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who returned to the Senate following a 14-day self-quarantine after being informed he came into contact with someone infected with the virus, said residents in his state “have stepped up in every way possible.”
“In a uniquely Colorado way, you have hemp businesses that are now producing cotton swabs for medical needs. You have whiskey distilleries that are producing hand sanitizers for hospitals for home health care,” he said. “We have protective equipment that’s being donated by the Denver Broncos and by marijuana industry and by so many other businesses across the state of Colorado who are stepping up in ways that make all of us proud.”
While Gardner didn’t offer specifics about which companies are behind these contributions, health experts have emphasized that there are significant shortages of medical necessities—cotton swabs, face masks and ventilators, for example—in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s spurred some private companies to get involved and help address those shortages.
Gardner, who is one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans heading into the November election, has made much of his advocacy for marijuana reform and his support for the industry.
He gave hemp and marijuana businesses credit for contributing to the coronavirus response earlier this week as well.
“We’ve been working with the marijuana industry for instance, on personal protective equipment,” he told Colorado Public Radio. “We found some hemp manufacturers that can make cotton swabs.”
The pandemic has put a variety of drug policy reform efforts on hold, from the local to federal level. With legislative priorities shifting, it remains to be seen when the Senate might take up a Gardner-sponsored bill to protect banks that service the cannabis industry from being penalized by federal regulators.
Passing that bill, a version of which the House approved on a bipartisan basis last year, would represent a much-needed victory for Gardner to bring home to Colorado amid his reelection campaign.
The senator said last month that the chamber was “close” to making a deal with Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) concerning changes to the House-passed legislation. But in the weeks since, the COVID-19 has eclipsed a wide range of issues and so its prospects of passage in the short-term are dubious.
Meanwhile, Gardner isn’t the only official crediting cannabis for aiding in efforts to combat coronavirus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said earlier this month that regional talks among Northeast governors to coordinate marijuana legalization plans have inadvertently enabled them to more effectively communicate during this crisis.