Senator Small vows to fight legislative repeal efforts in 2023
Plus: Gallatin County won't get their weed taxes quite yet.
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Greetings, friends, far and wide, and welcome back to the newsletter.
I’m really thrilled to share my interview with state Senator Jason Small (R-Busby) today. A proponent of pragmatic cannabis reform, Senator Small had a significant hand in crafting House Bill 701, and during the process, he fought for tribal access to the booming industry.
Jason and I had been in touch recently when the Department of Revenue announced its intent to severely restrict tribes’ opportunities within the industry. During our conversation, Jason was, well, customarily frank.
Considering his support for the cannabis industry, I wanted to follow up with him to learn what other related issues he’s focused on, including potential repeal threats in the 2023 Legislature.
In addition to his Senate campaign, Jason is also running to become Vice President of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. The non-partisan primary will be held on July 7, and the top two candidates will head to a general election on August 9th. I wanted to learn more about what he would seek to accomplish in that role, cannabis-related and otherwise.
But before we get to the interview, one quick favor…
I’d love to hear your recommendations on your favorite shops in Kalispell / Whitefish / Columbia Falls. I’ll be there tomorrow, Thursday June 23, to gather some intel for a Leafly story. All suggestions welcome. Thanks!
Also…*this* is wild:
Thanks to a legal technicality, Gallatin County Commissioners have axed the June 7 vote to add a 3% local-option tax to both rec and medical marijuana. #Whoops. Residents will likely have another chance to vote on the matter this November.
Alright, let’s get to the good stuff. Here’s Jason.
This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
You advocated regularly for pragmatic cannabis legalization during the last legislative session. Why did the issue become important to you?
Everyone wants a cut of the budget for the state. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. In order to support everything we need to support, we have to increase revenue.
This was an easy call. Let’s get realistic: there’s a lot of cannabis users out there already. Why don't we undermine the black market, the illicit trade, a little bit? Legalize it, regulate it, make it a safer environment for everybody and bring in some revenue money to support some of the things we’re trying to do as a state.
I don't think we’re gaining any more users. That’s always an argument that people have [against legalization].
You’re running for Vice President of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. In that role, how would you facilitate the tribe’s opportunities to profit from the cannabis industry?
We have an economic development committee right now that’s beginning to work on [cannabis-related ventures]. One of the challenges they’ve had is trying to stay in the loop and know what’s going on. I can help there. My primary place in the whole thing is keeping everybody updated and trying to push that committee to keep moving forward so we can actually get something put together.
What other issues, aside from cannabis, would you hope to tackle as VP?
We’re trying to put together law enforcement right now that has been long lacking due to a lot of incompetencies in the [Bureau of Indian Affairs] system. Right now the tribe is trying to put together and fund its own private investigators. Law enforcement is the primary issue. We need to update our law and order code so it jives with the state to a larger degree.
We also have extraordinarily high jobless rates. We’re looking at 60-plus percent, I would imagine. Anywhere else in the country, oh my god, everyone would be up in arms. There’s geographical segregation, and a lack of opportunity, here.
How can you change those numbers and generate more jobs?
We need to do some business development. On the res right now, as far as primary employers go, there’s federal government employees, tribal government employees, schoolteachers, or you work in the ag industry, like a day laborer. We need to be bringing in manufacturing, light manufacturing.
Our internet service ain’t great. Everybody needs to get broadband, so people with marketable products will have better access to the outside world.
If you’re elected to another term in the state Senate this November, are there marijuana-related issues you hope to tackle in 2023?
I haven’t seen a lot of revisions or rewrites yet, but I hear a lot of rumors of maybe some repeal-type stuff and whatnot. Basically my primary goal is to block all of that. We have a system that’s moving forward and working alright. Let’s improve it and not get rid of it. That’s one of my primary concerns.
Although there’s an appetite to shut this sonbitch down, I think it’s insane to try to do it. Nothing will be gained. There’s already smokers out there. Everybody’s doing it.
Yeah, that sounds insane. DOR recently announced that they will require lawmakers to facilitate tribal access to licenses next session, instead of doing it themselves. Will you have a hand in that process?
The Indian Caucus will have to sit down here and definitely make a game plan on this. It wasn’t our intent to negotiate and lose out. The intent was to create a thriving industry or at least have a good foot in the door. We gave concessions to acquire that licensure and we want what’s correct, what’s usable and what’s right.
To learn more about Senator Small, visit his campaign Facebook page.
Well, that’s all for today, folks. Thanks again for reading and please feel free to share the newsletter with your friends, family and fellow connoisseurs!
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