As the June 26 primary election for Colorado governor draws closer, Congressman Jared Polis is ramping up efforts to reach a key demographic: cannabis users. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who held a thirteen-point lead over Cary Kennedy in a recent survey, held a canvassing event on Friday, June 8, instructing his supporters to visit dispensaries on South Broadway in hopes of gaining more steam.
Polis has been working to protect the state's legal cannabis industry since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, and put his Denver campaign headquarters on South Broadway, right before the street's "green mile" concentration of dispensaries. That's where he was when he said he wanted to give a "Colorado welcome" to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was in Denver to speak at the Western Conservative Summit.
"We're doing an event here to highlight our concerns that Jeff Sessions causes for legal cannabis customers and medicinal marijuana users in our state," Polis said. Although earlier that day President Donald Trump had said he would "probably" support the federal bill sponsored by Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren that would protect state-legalized cannabis industries and users from federal persecution, Polis, a co-sponsor of the bill, thinks that Coloradans should still be concerned about federal interference.
"This president is notoriously unpredictable. I think it's important that Congress has its say," he said. "I look forward to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to get it done."
Polis noted that Trump did recently sign a bill that protects state-compliant medical marijuana users from federal prosecution, but said the president didn't do enough to stand up to Sessions after the AG revoked the Cole Memorandum and nine years' worth of other federal guidelines that protected legal cannabis.
Sessions wasn't the only galvanizing factor for this gathering. When Governor John Hickenlooper vetoed three cannabis-related bills in two days earlier in the week, Polis was the only gubernatorial candidate to say he would have signed the bills, and cannabis industry representatives and advocates took notice.
"There's a great need for protection not just for this industry, but for patients," said CannAbility Foundation founder Stacey Linn, who'd pushed heavily for a bill that would've added autism to the list of Colorado's qualified medical marijuana conditions. That bill passed through the Colorado Legislature by a wide margin but was ultimately vetoed by the governor.
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"In marijuana, we live and die by legislation," Linn added.
National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith attended the Polis canvassing effort, too, less than a month after the NCIA finished its eighth annual lobbying session in Washington, D.C. "In our first round of lobby days, we only had one congressman there, and that was Jared Polis," Smith told the crowd. "We need to have a governor that supports this."
Although Polis is also pushing platforms of universal health care, renewable energy and preschool reform, his campaign views cannabis users and industry members as a particularly deep pool of potential supporters. His campaign staff boasts the unique distinction of having a cannabis coordinator to tap into the industry, and Polis visited a Northglenn dispensary and cultivation on April 20 to celebrate the 4/20 holiday.
In a Magellan Strategies survey released June 7, Polis held a thirteen-point lead over Kennedy in the four-candidate Democratic gubernatorial primary, but nearly four in ten voters remain undecided. With this cannabis canvassing effort, the Polis campaign hopes to win over those voters...and then remind them to turn in the ballots that arrived in mailboxes this week.