Colorado strategists say a cannabis win would give Gardner’s campaign a much-needed boost and activate the political arm of the state’s influential cannabis industry, which came out strong for now-Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, in the 2018 election. The industry is a political powerhouse: Its lack of party alignment makes it a coveted ally for politicians on both sides of the aisle who want to show they can bring jobs and tax revenue to the state.
But so far, the GOP’s most ardent promoter of cannabis in Congress hasn’t delivered any legislative wins for the state’s $1.7 billion, rapidly growing cannabis industry, where marijuana was legalized in 2012. The two major cannabis bills Gardner sponsors — one to increase access to banking and capital for the cannabis industry and one to codify federal protections for states that choose to legalize marijuana — have not advanced in the Senate at all, despite the banking bill passing the House with a bipartisan majority last fall. Gardner does not support any bill that would legalize cannabis nationwide.
“At some point, I have to go to Cory Gardner and say, ‘Why should the industry continue to support you?’” said Marijuana Policy Project’s Don Murphy, a former Republican lawmaker in Maryland. “I know you’re trying, but you’re not getting anything.”