Barrasso Grills Interior Secretary Nominee on Support for Legalizing Marijuana

By Melanie Arter | February 24, 2021 | 2:05pm EST
S Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat from New Mexico and secretary of the interior nominee, testifies during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC on February 24, 2021. (Photo by LEIGH VOGEL/AFP via Getty Images)
S Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat from New Mexico and secretary of the interior nominee, testifies during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC on February 24, 2021. (Photo by LEIGH VOGEL/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Barrasso (Wyo.) grilled Rep. Debra Haaland (D-N.M.), President Joe Biden’s nominee for interior secretary, on her support for legalizing marijuana in New Mexico and for using the money from marijuana sales to replace oil and gas royalties used to fund public schools.

Haaland tried to explain that she wanted to “diversify our funding streams for education and not just rely on one.” 


Barrasso asked whether selling marijuana was “what the Biden administration calls better choices that the Biden administration has promised to give displaced oil and gas workers.”

Haaland said she didn’t know Biden’s current stance on cannabis.

“But we know what your stance is on replacing the revenue from the energy jobs, the jobs that power our economy and the energy that powers our country, and your preference is to turn to drugs is what you’ve recommended to the voters at a time when we know when there’s high unemployment and energy workers lose their jobs - We’ve seen it in West Virginia. We’ve seen it around the country. There’s been an opioid crisis in this nation, and yet what I hear from you is the answer in a better choice world is marijuana,” Barrasso said.

A transcript of the exchange is listed below:


BARRASSO: In 2018, you campaigned on eliminating oil and gas production in New Mexico, and you were specifically asked how you would make up for the loss of oil and gas royalties, which the state uses to fund public schools, and your answer was you would vote to legalize cannabis. That was your answer and that you said, if we legalize cannabis and we have a new funding stream for our education system, that will help tremendously. That was your statement. Do you still believe that states should replace oil and gas royalties used for public education with taxes on the sale of marijuana. Is that your position?

HAALAND: I think the point of that, ranking member, was to say that we should diversity our funding streams for education and not just rely on one.

BARRASSO: So is selling marijuana among what the Biden administration calls better choices that the Biden administration has promised to give displaced oil and gas workers? Is that the better choice – marijuana?

HAALAND: Ranking member, I honestly don’t know what President Biden’s stance is on cannabis currently.

BARRASSO: But we know what your stance is on replacing the revenue from the energy jobs, the jobs that power our economy and the energy that powers our country, and your preference is to turn to drugs is what you’ve recommended to the voters at a time when we know when there’s high unemployment and energy workers lose their jobs - We’ve seen it in West Virginia. We’ve seen it around the country. There’s been an opioid crisis in this nation, and yet what I hear from you is the answer in a better choice world is marijuana.    

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