Dave Dunwoody: Congressman, you’re holding another “Open Gaetz” session in Escambia County this week.
Matt Gaetz: We will have on Thursday Open Gaetz Day in Pensacola, we’ll begin at sunrise with a 6:30 a.m. town hall meeting that we’ll be having out on Pensacola Beach. After that, we’ll be a beach cleanup with those in attendance. We’ve also got a number of other events throughout the day, at local schools where we’re able to hear from parents, teachers, and administrators about how the decisions we make in Washington, can create downward pressure on the education system. And ultimately, we’ll conclude with a little bit of fun at the Blue Wahoos baseball game.
DD: On a bit more serious note, [there are] the missile attacks in Syria [and] the ongoing situation with North Korea….
MG: We live in a world that is becoming more dangerous by the hour. There are a number of hot spots in the Middle East and the Far East that are drawing into sharp relief the important role that America plays in the world. When we look to Syria, the President needs to work with the Congress to develop a lasting strategy there for peace. I don’t believe, and the President doesn’t seem to believe, that putting hundreds of thousands of American troops on the ground in the middle of the Syrian civil war is a good idea.
When we look at North Korea, we really see a regime that is in a state of great turmoil. We all know that Kim-Jong Un isn’t exactly playing with a full deck. But, we’ve seen a major change in the way China has chosen to deal with North Korea. More than half of North Korea’s economy is the export of coal into China. China’s recently announced that they’re not going to continue to import North Korean coal. That destabilizes the Kim Jong Un regime, but it also gives China a tremendous amount of leverage that we hope they will use. I think the fact that they’re being more assertive with North Korea is a sign that the President’s meeting with the leadership from China has been productive.
DD: Before the missile launch on Syria, do you feel that the President should have come to Congress first?
MG: The President believes he’s operating under the authorized use of military force from two administrations ago. I think everyone would acknowledge a need to update that, and ensure that it’s consistent with the realities that we face in the world today. I understand why the President did what he did when he did it. Assad violated every international norm by using chemical weapons against his own people. And it’s very important that we send a message that it’s not going to be normalized, that we’re not going to tolerate the use of chemical weapons, and these types of atrocities. I think the President was one time sending this very important message. The Congress will need to be consulted and very involved in crafting a lasting strategy for peace in the region.
DD: A little closer to home, you’re behind a bill to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule-I substance to Schedule III…
MG: Schedule I is preserved for substances that have no medical value – heroin, LSD, cocaine. Schedule III drugs are drugs that are still regulated by the federal government so that they’re accurately labeled, tested, and they have to be recommended by a physician through a prescription. Schedule III drugs include Tylenol with codeine and various forms of steroids. The problem we have right now is: medical cannabis is legal in dozens of states. And yet, it’s not legal to research the medical impacts of cannabis, rigorously; it’s not legal to bank the businesses engaged in the provision of medical cannabis. So my legislation, by moving medical marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III, would allow research to occur, and allow the companies that are selling medical marijuana to be able to bank their proceeds.
DD: The final question is one we talked about the last time. The reopening of Navarre Pass is on hold right now. Do you think it will ever be reopened, or is there too much opposition?
MG: I’m as committed as ever to reopen the Navarre Pass; here’s where we stand now. There are certain testing and evaluation missions that occur in this stretch of beach, that do not occur anywhere else within the Gulf Range. I speak specifically of testing for the Patriot and THAAD missile systems. This is highly relevant to the discussions that we’ve had about North Korea. If you look at the Korean Peninsula, we may be doing more deployment of missile systems there than we’ve done in the past. If that is to occur and if we’re going to innovate those systems, a lot of the testing and evaluation may occur right here in northwest Florida. I think it’s important to take a strategic pause, and then to see where else along the Gulf range we can develop those capabilities.