When it comes to cannabis, Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle had a change of heart. During his tenure as a public servant, he preferred keeping marijuana in the DEA’s Schedule I category, alongside drugs that aren't considered safe to use even under medical supervision.
“I was into all of that mindset for many years. I experienced the 60s and 70s and saw the downside of drugs," Daschle tells Benzinga. "And I think there was a mentality that the best way to address drug abuse and the challenges we face with drugs generally, not necessarily just cannabis, was to try to dissuade people from using drugs by enforcing the laws. And I think that mentality was very pervasive and it was bipartisan.”
Today, the scenario has changed. Cannabis is legal for all adults in 11 states, for medical purposes in 34 and five more states—New Jersey, Montana, Arizona, Mississippi and South Dakota—recently voted to legalize it. And Daschle has changed his tune.
Last year, he even joined the Board of Advisors for cannabis company Clever Leaves International Inc., a Canadian company doing business in Colombia. The former senator knows Clever Leaves CEO and co-founder Kyle Detwiler well. They are both South Dakotans.
“We have a state connection,” Daschle says. “Kyle has a photo with me when he was in high school and I was in Congress.”
In 1978, Daschle was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served eight years. In 1986, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and was chosen as Senate Democratic Leader in 1994. With his political career behind him, Daschle is lending his expertise to the business of cannabis.
“But, over time, science, more information, new approaches to medicine, and really some appreciation of the disjointed history around all of this—it all came to converge," Daschle adds. "And I became intrigued by the medical and the medicinal advantages, and the opportunities that cannabis provides.”
There are also deals to get done. Turns out, Clever Leaves is expected to go public on the Nasdaq via a SPAC transaction.
Daschle, however, downplays the lucrative aspects of the business.
“Frankly, I'm at a stage in my life where I don't need the money. I've been very successful in life. And money isn't a motivator,” he says. “I'm at a point where I want to do the things I really …