Fresh from a meeting with President Trump and Republicans in Congress, Encinitas marijuana CEO Brad McLaughlin is hopeful cannabis legalization is coming on the federal level.
In fact, he’s putting his money where his profits are.
It was the Republican Rohrabacher — in a fierce fight for re-election — who invited McLaughlin to Washington in late September to lobby on marijuana issues, McLaughlin said.
“I paid for my own airfare and my own hotel stay at the Trump Hotel in Washington,” he said Thursday. “I’m not a paid consultant or a paid adviser. I went to Washington to speak to lawmakers about cannabis reform because I believe it’s the right thing to do.”
Rohrabacher backs marijuana legalization (medical and recreational) and called McLaughlin “a terrific leader in the incredible emerging cannabis industry.”
The House member since 1989 said McLaughlin was one of only a handful of cannabis entrepreneurs with the “professionalism needed when meeting with some of the most conservative members of Congress.”
On Thursday, Rohrabacher told FOX Business that the White House is planning to address cannabis reform after the November elections.
The Trump administration has made a “solid commitment” to follow through on a vow to legalize marijuana on the federal level, he said.
“I have been talking to people inside the White House who know and inside the president’s entourage,” said the 48th District congressman. “I have talked to them at length. I have been reassured that the president intends on keeping his campaign promise.”
Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21. Medical marijuana is legal in 30 states.
But cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seen as a roadblock to legalization. And marijuana merchants continue to have trouble using banks.
McLaughlin says he attended meetings on Capitol Hill and later attended a National Republican Congressional Committee fundraiser where he met Trump, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and GOP House members. He stayed at the Trump International Hotel — five blocks from the White House.
“In my meetings with members of Congress, I continually stressed that we could create jobs, lower crime, generate tax revenue for schools and infrastructure, fight opiate addiction, help our honored veterans, take carbon out of the atmosphere, remove toxins from our soil and create a second gold rush or ‘green rush’ for American farmers and entrepreneurs by legalizing cannabis,” McLaughlin said in a statement.
In recent years, McLaughlin, 34, made financial contributions to presidential candidate Barack Obama and Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
“I put ‘the plant’ before politics,” he told Times of San Diego. “I’m not a Republican or a Democrat — I’m a Libertarian. … I supported President Obama because I thought he was going to make changes in regards to cannabis legalization. But unfortunately, he didn’t.”
McLaughlin says he backed Trump because he said during his campaign that medical cannabis should be legal and the states should decide on adult use.
“I’m supporting Beto O’Rourke, who’s a Democrat, in his Texas Senate campaign against Ted Cruz … because [O’Rourke is] pro cannabis,” he said, “and I really want to see Texas legalize cannabis.”
Rohrabacher, he said, “has the guts to stand up for the cannabis community, and has done so far years, even back when it wasn’t popular to do so.”
McLaughlin says Rohrabacher, 71, has influence with other members of Congress as well as the president.
“I think Dana’s greatest gifts aren’t his ability to influence his peers, but rather his ‘can do’ attitude and his willingness to do the right thing and stand up for the average Joe,” he said.
Two recent polls suggest the Orange County congressman’s race with Democrat Harley Rouda is a tossup — with The New York Times and Sienna College poll showing the rivals at 45 percent support each and the Berkeley IGS survey saying both are backed by 48 percent.
McLaughlin says he met Trump — at his namesake hotel — Sept. 27 at an NRCC dinner (after the Secret Service had him place his cell phone and most of his belongings in a Ziploc bag).
”Once I got past security, there was a cocktail reception while we were waiting for the president,” he said. “Dana introduced me to a lot of lawmakers he thought I needed to talk to.”
When members of Congress finished their meeting with Trump, “megadonors” were brought up to see the president and take a picture with him, McLaughlin said.
“Because I didn’t make a donation, I was told beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to get a picture, which was fine by me.”
But during a later “meet and greet” line, McLaughlin spoke with Donald Trump Jr. about cannabis reform for about five minutes.
As that reception line was wrapping up, he said, Rohrabacher “walked me up to the president and introduced me and explained why I was there. The president and I briefly chatted for less then 5 minutes. He thanked me for coming and said, ‘I’m with you.’ I assume he meant the legal cannabis industry.”
After the trip, Rohrabacher issued a statement: “Love him or hate him, President Trump keeps his promises. … The president is a man of his word and cannabis reform is coming very soon at the federal level. It could be as early as spring of 2019, but definitely in the next legislative session.”