KSJD News, Gail Schwartz, October 26, 2016

Station: KSJD, 90.5fm, 91.5fm, 91.1fm, 89.5fm (Western Slope)

Show:     KSJD News (interview with Austin Cope)

Guests:  Schwartz, Gail

Link:      http://ksjd.org/#stream/0


Date:      October 26, 2016


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HOST AUSTIN COPE:  Joining me this morning is Gail Schwartz.  She’s running for the 3rd Congressional District of Colorado, and for a seat in the U.S. House.  She’s running against incumbent Scott Tipton.  She served as Colorado State Senator, and represented 13 counties in Senate District 5 for eight years.  And most recently served through the year 2014.  She also served for six years on the University of Colorado Board of Regents.  She lives in Crested Butte now, and joins me now on the line from the campaign trail.  Senator Schwartz, thank you for joining us.


COPE:  Yes. So, I wanted to first about the 2016 presidential election.  A lot of our listeners might say that at this point it is pretty crazy.  Has this presidential election changed the way you have run your campaign?

SCHWARTZ:  Well, I’ve never run in a presidential year.  Actually, I’ve run and won three times in the 3rd Congressional and I have never actually ran in a presidential year.  So, I can’t – I’d say,  it’s, you know, certainly a different kind of, um — you know, a lot of different conversations and energy going on.  But I can’t say that it has influenced how I’ve run my campaign.

COPE:  Okay. Let’s talk about one of the campaign issues here.  You and Scott Tipton have disagreed over a public lands management.   You have said that Representative Tipton wants to transfer public lands management to the state, but he has denied that claim. How, specifically, do you view the role of the federal government in public lands management?

SCHWARTZ:  Well, I think, you know, public lands need to stay in public hands.  And most recently, there is even questioning [of] the appropriateness of transferring federal land to the states.  And very clearly we have seen a number of bills that Scott Tipton has chosen to cosponsor or introduce and — that really are very specifically promoting the transfer, disposal, sale, starting with the Heard Act – 5836.  He also cosponsored House Resolution 866 last year and that had a very clear direction to transfer federal lands to the state, to lease, permit, or regulate oil and gas exploration, and those lands would not be subject to federal reviews, or endangered species, NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act], [nor the] Historic Preservation Act.  And most importantly, the vote that Scott Tipton took this year that really was a vote against an amendment that the appropriations bill 2822 called no extralegal sale or seizure of public lands, which would prevent a chance to sell America’s public lands.  So, he clearly supports selling, disposing federal lands.

COPE:  I want to talk now about a specific issue related to public lands in our area.  The BLM [Bureau of Land Management] recently moved forward a master leasing plan in southwestern Colorado.  What are your thoughts on that?

SCHWARTZ:  Well, I think that this has been a — and again, a very important local effort and we need to support the work that has been done regionally to support a master leasing plan because it is a — it’s a unique tool that we’re able to have the citizens engaged in and it does give the ability to have a more comprehensive landscape approach to where oil and gas activities are going to be taking place and where other land restrictions will be in place.  So, I feel that engagement in an effort such as this is an important one for the region.

COPE:  Okay.  Shifting to a different issue now:  Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, but of course it remains illegal at the federal level.  So [in] the town of Cortez, we have quite a few marijuana dispensaries here and a lot of people see it as an economic benefit.  There are also a lot of people who say that it is causing more problems than benefits.  So my question for you is, how would you represent a state at the federal level that has legalized recreational marijuana at the state level?

SCHWARTZ:  Well, I think that, having been one part of the vote that took place to legalize marijuana, we need to respect the will of the voters, and it is a constitutional amendment.  But more importantly, I served on the select committee in the state Senate to – that put together all of the statutes for the implementation of the marijuana, um, Congre — excuse me – constitutional change.  So, I have been very engaged in that.  And I feel that I have a very –pretty strong understanding of what it takes to implement legalized marijuana.  We built it on our existing medical marijuana system, and then, more importantly, I was very — as Chair of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Energy Committee — I was very active in promoting hemp, and hemp production and hemp oversight, and with the Department of Agriculture. So lastly, in terms of –yes, at the federal level, we need to have the federal government understand the will of states that have legalized both medical marijuana, marijuana, and hemp production, that the federal government needs to respect that, and we need to have a banking system in place.  We need to de-list both hemp and marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic.  I mean, this is something that the state – we’re engaged in monitoring and regulating, and we need to have the ability to have this industry move from a cash industry, and have the ability –as I said — to get it into a traditional banking model. I’m not saying what exactly that needs to be.  We’ve had a lot of thoughts at the state level.  The feds could help us with that.  And I understand [that] many  communities have –are recognizing there are some impacts.  And that’s where the resources that come from the excise tax that we have put on to marijuana production and the local taxes, really should give us the ability to make sure that the education is out there for the young people, that we have support around these issues, and we most importantly need research.  We need to understand what the medical benefits and opportunities are for marijuana, and also what the threats might be, relative to the health of individuals in our state.  So, the big issue: I’m supportive of moving the federal government to recognition of what we need in the state to have this industry continue to develop.

COPE:  Sure.  Now, the Obama administration did reclassify marijuana as a pretty highly illegal drug.  It is still a Schedule I drug.  You talked about implementation at the federal level.  How could you plan to do that?

SCHWARTZ:  Well, I think that’s important — and hemp.  You know, hemp is like regulating corn as a Schedule I drug.  I mean, this a problem for us that we definitely need to be – we definitely need to recognize that hemp is a wonderful potential crop, product, industry.  [It is] drought resistant and has many — we have many opportunities in southwestern and southern Colorado for hemp. So, yes.  We need to be very aggressive in putting forth and finding like-minded states that are going to support this delisting of marijuana and hemp.

COPE:  Sure.  Okay, cool!  Thanks.  Well, final question:  if elected to the U.S. House, you are going to cover the largest district in Colorado.  And you will represent areas ranging from ski towns like Aspen or Telluride or Crested Butte, to rural farming communities like Dove Creek and Cortez.  Being – living in Crested Butte yourself, how can you represent such differences in ideology in places like Cortez or Dove Creek?

SCHWARTZ:  Well, I think I bring, you know, a really broad – broad experience.  And I started in community planning. I actually was Director of Development and Acting Director of a housing authority.  We built 800 units in four years.   I was Chair of [the] Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy [Committee] in the state Senate.  I chaired the Capital Development Committee, rewrote the severance tax laws, have worked on chairing the Water Resources Review Committee.  I mean, my life for the last 10 years has been around agriculture, water issues,  certainly healthcare issues, and I serve on many boards, including the Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District Board, that are focused on water, but also [on] the need to provide housing and healthcare and childcare in our communities.  These are issues that, um — I’ve lived in communities, but what many of us need to understand is, where I come from is where we agree, where our common experience is.  And then we can have the opportunity to work together on our differences. But the Senate District 5 probably had the wealthiest and the poorest communities in the nation. I learned so much from representing the San Luis Valley.

COPE:  Sure.

SCHWARTZ:  I really feel that that experience has been — has been – brings me great, great opportunity to serve many of the communities – I mean, all the communities — and all the citizens of the CD3.

COPE:  Sure.  Yeah.  And a lot of these issues are issues that voters will be keeping an eye on. Gail Schwartz is running against Scott Tipton for the seat in U.S. House, representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.  Thanks for joining us!