Following the footsteps of ex-House Speaker John Boehner, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has become the latest retired politician to enter the legal cannabis fray: The South Dakota Democrat has just joined New York-based cannabis investment firm Northern Swan Holdings’ board of advisors. Widely considered to be an expert in health and wellness, Daschle’s appointment could be a boon for Northern Swan’s ongoing expansion efforts in the global medical cannabis market.
Last month, Northern Swan generated headlines after announcing it had closed $58 million in Series D financing, raising its total capital to date to $96 million. A press release on the financing said the capital infusion would be used to “expand its existing Latin American operations, to invest in new low-cost, large-scale cannabis cultivation and processing centers and to build out distribution channels and brands in Europe, Latin America and North America.”
In a public statement, Kyle Detwiler, CEO of Northern Swan, said he looked forward to Daschle, one of the longest serving Senate Democratic leaders in history and one of only two to serve twice as both Majority and Minority Leader, to bring a similar level of commitment and dedication to medical cannabis as he had “as a public servant for almost 30 years to ensure all Americans have access to affordable health care.”
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. Daschle left the Senate in 2005.
Recently, Daschle, took a break from his busy schedule to answer questions via email regarding his Northern Swan appointment as well as his advocacy of cannabis, a seminal move for an erstwhile public official considering the substance’s federal illegality.
Iris Dorbian: What made you decide to join the board of Northern Swan Holdings? What were the circumstances?
Tom Daschle: Northern Swan has an exciting and ambitious plan to cultivate high quality cannabis and deliver it in health and wellness products around the globe. I have been especially impressed with the leadership team’s seriousness and thoughtfulness, in particular, the priority they place on compliance and the deference they give to government regulation.
Dorbian: How did you become an advocate of cannabis? How did that evolve?
Daschle: I have heard enough and seen enough to know that cannabis offers some very real potential to improve the health and well-being of many Americans. Unfortunately, so much of the evidence is still anecdotal; but that’s another symptom of how the federal government has scheduled cannabis, which makes conducting research extremely difficult. The trends in published research, though, show promise. Just last month, researchers released a study showing that a cannabis-based drug reduced the frequency of seizures in children with a certain type of epilepsy.
And when you look around and you see who is now championing removing cannabis from Schedule 1, people like the American Legion, who have called for descheduling since 2016, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that there is a profound and exciting change taking place.
Dorbian: What are your thoughts regarding legalization? When do you think it’ll happen?
Daschle: I believe cannabis should be removed from Schedule 1 so that we can build a regulatory regime that allows Americans to safely consume cannabis for medical use. I am less concerned with how quickly it happens, and more concerned that we make this transition in a smart and thoughtful way.