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Danielle Gallant, Nevada’s 23 District Assembly Member and Business Owner- Interview Series

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Tell me about yourself, your background as a business owner and how did you get involved in Nevada politics?

After 15 years of marriage, my husband and I are proud parents to two boys, aged 9 and 13. Together, we co-own Guardian Realty and Gallant Construction. In my role as the Broker for Guardian Realty, I specialize in property management, particularly assisting small investors in securing their financial futures. Despite being approached annually for the past five years to run for office, I declined each offer. However, the landscape shifted with the onset of COVID-19. With my children navigating the challenges of remote schooling and enduring an eviction moratorium that extended far beyond its initial promise, I received a call in December 2020 inviting me to run for State Assembly. Frustrated by what I perceived as a loss of rationality among civil servants, I felt compelled to advocate for individuals' autonomy in decision-making, free from unfounded fears.

What have been some of your favorite highlights so far while serving as District 23’s Assembly member?

Navigating the Nevada legislature as a Republican, particularly one who is outspoken, presents its challenges. There's this prevailing notion among Democrats that if we Republicans keep quiet, they'll graciously let our bills through—a notion I find utterly false. Being thrust into an environment where surrendering one's voice is deemed customary, even as you're distanced from family and friends, makes every small act of kindness monumental.

I've come to realize that those I least expected to offer support ended up being my strongest allies during my tenure. It's eye-opening to discover that individuals with whom you often clash ideologically can possess immense compassion and remain untainted by the political environment. Through this experience, I've discerned two distinct categories of individuals: those motivated by self-interest and those propelled by genuine love and concern for our state.

For me, the essence of politics lies in collaborating with individuals who genuinely care, regardless of our ideological differences. These are the individuals who prioritize communication, problem-solving, and collective action. My perspective on both the political process and the people involved has undergone a profound transformation, and I'm grateful for my willingness to embrace new insights.

On the subject of cannabis, why are you as a Republican representative supportive of the cannabis industry while many of the other high-profile members of the GOP still remain unsupportive of cannabis reform at best and openly hostile at worst?

I think it boils down to my personal experiences. Many of my GOP colleagues haven't had the experience of smoking cannabis or trying edibles. My perspective on recreational drugs differs because I've witnessed firsthand the spectrum of their impact on individuals. While we often hear about the extreme cases of addiction that result in lives unraveling, we rarely hear about the more common instances where individuals are able to use drugs in moderation and lead successful, productive lives.

To be clear, I'm not placing substances like heroin, meth, speed, crack, or fentanyl in the same category as what we're discussing. I'm referring more to designer drugs like cannabis, alcohol, ecstasy, and mushrooms. Throughout my life, I've had friends who engage in recreational drug use and yet maintain successful careers, loving families, and overall happiness. They exercise responsibility in their usage.

I firmly believe that adults have the right to make choices without government interference as long as they're not infringing on the rights of others. For instance, if someone wants to drink or use drugs, that's their prerogative, but if they choose to drive under the influence, then it becomes a problem. Furthermore, I don't believe it's the government's role to shield people from what they perceive as poor decisions. As adults, we have the right to make both good and bad choices and to learn from the consequences of those decisions.

How did the fundraiser at the Smoke & Mirrors lounge come to be? How does it feel to be the first Republican to host a fundraiser at a cannabis consumption lounge? Personally, I can’t imagine Mike Pence hosting an event at a cannabis lounge anytime soon.

The thought of Mike Pence attending my fundraiser is amusing. I've met him before, and he was incredibly kind to my boys. However, picturing him at Smoke and Mirrors would indeed be like a fish out of water. Fundraisers can be dreadfully monotonous, always following the same script. I've been yearning to shake things up a bit.

It struck me that hosting a fundraiser at a cannabis consumption lounge would be a refreshing departure, while also sending a message that I stand by my beliefs. I'm staunchly pro-business, and the cannabis industry is a significant contributor to our state's thriving and diverse economy. It's time we treat them on par with any other establishment, like bars, restaurants, or casinos.

Moreover, I live by the wise words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: “well-behaved women seldom make history.” I aspire to leave a legacy of effecting change. That's why I'm more inclined to take risks and challenge the status quo, regardless of party lines.

The same week as your fundraiser at Smoke & Mirrors, the Florida GOP formally rejected the upcoming cannabis bill that will be voted on in November. Why does the GOP disagree so strongly about the subject of cannabis legalization and industry? I can’t think of another example this profound of a current issue that the same political party disagrees so strongly with each other on.

I see a couple of factors contributing to this situation. Firstly, there are those who simply oppose cannabis and hold strong negative views against it. Secondly, some individuals associate being Republican with taking a firm stance on certain issues. Then there are those of us who recognize the benefits of cannabis legalization, such as its potential to aid veterans with PTSD or cancer patients struggling with appetite loss. Additionally, some prioritize other pressing matters like education, the economy, and crime, opting to leave the cannabis issue to the voters.

Furthermore, we're witnessing the issue of school choice increasingly dividing the Democratic Party. Across the nation, Democrats are showing support for school choice, which mirrors the evolution of cannabis within the Republican Party. It'll be fascinating to observe how school choice progresses within the Democrat Party and whether it yields results similar to the cannabis issue among Republicans.

What are some improvements that are still needed in Nevada cannabis that the Nevada Legislature may be able to help out with?

I think we've made notable progress in our recent session by revamping the tax structure and broadening the scope of permissible purchases. Yet, a crucial issue demanding our focus is the underground market. There's a concerning rise in unauthorized cannabis sales throughout the valley, extending beyond just street-level individuals. Storefronts are peddling unregulated strains like Delta 9 CBD, posing risks to consumers. It's imperative that we shield law-abiding enterprises from these rogue operators.

Josh Kasoff is a journalist and copywriter living in Las Vegas covering all aspects of the cannabis industry. From law and politics, to arts and entertainment as well as advocacy and further criminal justice reform. Along with interviewing the Nevada cannabis industry's most important decision makers and professionals, Josh has also worked directly in the Nevada industry for over five years in a variety of packaging, manufacturing, marketing and testing analysis roles.