The first member of the U.S. House of Representatives who publicly admits to "dabbing" could be Arizona Democrat Mikel Weisser.
The odds may be slim of this occurring since Weisser's facing off against incumbent Republican Paul Gosar in expansive and conservative Congressional District 4, which includes Kingman, Prescott and part of Maricopa County. He's a former plumber and middle-school teacher, an ultra-leftie, and the current leader of Safer Arizona, a group that tried unsuccessfully to get a cannabis-legalization measure on the ballot this year.
Weisser brings a plethora of personal experience to the national debate over loosened marijuana laws -- in fact, when we last met him, he brought it in an Altoid tin.
The 55-year-old candidate shares his interest in marijuana freely, just as Gosar, his competitor isn't shy about praising beer. Weisser had told New Times a few months ago that he'd tried "dabbing" -- that is, smoking resinous, potent hash oil by touching it to glass super-heated with a blowtorch. With the rise of dabbing as a trend in marijuana use, Weisser had been curious to learn, literally, what the buzz was all about.
When we saw him on Friday, during a break in a conference in downtown Phoenix he was attending, Weisser mentioned that since the last time he'd chatted with us, he'd tried dabbing "a couple more times to be sure of my opinion."
"It's not a big deal," he goes on. "It hits harder than flowers. It's a more intense experience. The THC level doesn't confuse me, but I get some anxiety."
Weisser says he prefers to smoke "flowers," meaning marijuana buds. To show us what he means, he pulls out an Altoid tin in his front pocket and flicks it open. Inside is a small pipe and a plastic sandwich bag containing what appeared to be marijuana. He was also happy to show us his Arizona medical-marijuana card, which grants him the freedom under state law to possess and use marijuana.
But Weisser, who was attending the Arizona Leadership Forum at the Phoenix Convention Center, didn't seem impaired or on anything stronger than a cup of coffee. He says he doesn't "have the leisure time" to sit around smoking pot all day long, and on a typical day he's out from 8 a.m. to midnight meeting people and groups in District 4. We can vouch for the fact that, in Weisser's frequent calls to New Times, he always seems to be on the road. Besides, the image of the lazy stoner is just another canard put forth by prohibitionists, he says.
Weisser lives in So-Hi, Arizona -- naturally, you might say. It's a tiny community near Kingman, in the northwest part of the state. He and his wife, Beth, live on a two-acre ranch property "with chickens." They moved to Arizona in 2000 from Illinois and became active in local politics. Weisser ran unsuccessfully in 2012 for the CD4 spot, losing to Democrat Johnnie Robinson in the primary election. Beth is running as a Democrat this year for the state legislature's District 5.
The demographics skew heavily Republican in the district, so Weisser probably doesn't have a chance. He's no moderate Democrat, either, describing his opponent as a "Tea Party Nazi." If he's elected, he'd push for an end to the federal prohibition on marijuana, while trying to streamline the banking system of the current marijuana industry in the short term.
Don't mistake him for a one-issue candidate. As a former teacher, he insists his main issue is education.
"I want to have limits on class size, and I want to get Howard Zinn back in the classroom," he says, referring to the controversial author of left-leaning history books. (Weisser was wearing a Howard Zinn button on his lapel when we chatted with him last week.) He's "not a champion of Common Core" or tuition vouchers.
On immigration, he's for open borders.
"We can't be telling people to go away," he says. "The whole world is teeming with refugees right now, and America's xenophobic approach is to say, 'build the damn fence.'"
Arizona students aren't getting enough exposure to left-wing historian Howard Zinn (above), Weisser says. If only the government stopped corporations from keeping trillions of dollars in profit parked in offshore accounts where they can't be taxed, the United States would have the resources to pay for services needed by new immigrants in the short term. Over time, "population increases lead to increases in consumption, which leads to increases in the economy," he says.
Campaign finance data show Weisser's received several thousand dollars from the Democratic Party, for a total of about $21,000 in contributions as of August. He's also loaned his campaign about $10,000. Having left his teaching job in May, he and his wife, a realtor, are "about as broke as people can be" and are on public assistance. As Weisser raises money for his campaign, he's paying his campaign loan back to himself, making just enough to keep moving down the highway to the next whistle stop.
Despite the long odds, Weisser insists his candidacy still has value by "getting people excited" about various issues, like legalized cannabis, and by bringing in Democrats to the polls who will cast votes for gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal and state Attorney General candidate Felecia Rotellini.
If he somehow ousts Gosar, who's getting help for his campaign from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, it'll be one more sign that toleration of cannabis has moved to the mainstream.
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