As a Republican, Giambra is up against not only more conservative members of his own party, but a statewide majority of Democrats. His campaign promise to legalize weed would also be dependent on a rather conservative state legislature. While New York’s State Assembly has been open to marijuana law reform – with Assemblyman and Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried as the cannabis cheerleader – the Senate has shown to be more difficult with getting legislation through. We started New York Grows as an educational effort to educate people on why prohibition is not an effective policy. The website is designed to provide educational information and allow people to get involved on a grassroots level by signing petitions to the governor and their state representatives, all with the purpose of educating and beginning to promote the ending of prohibition.
How do you think your involvement in cannabis could help or hurt your campaign?
I think it will help because most people in New York state believe prohibition is a stale public policy, and, while this a very important part of my agenda as I begin to expand the base of the Republican party in New York state, I think this issue along with other issues we’ve been talking about will allow me to identify with the 18 to 35-year-old constituency that is looking for a place to feel comfortable politically. That’s exactly where I see myself – as a very moderate Republican with a big tent philosophy.
What about appealing to older Republicans?
I think the majority of people believe that it makes no sense to continue to ignore that marijuana is part of our culture.
So you think cannabis is a mainstream political issue?
I think it’s becoming mainstream. With New Jersey [almost] having adult-use, and Massachusetts this year also, and then Canada, New York state is surrounded by entities that understand that prohibition doesn’t work, and are looking to monetize revenues from this industry. If you win, how will you get it through the state legislature?
There are two bills pending: one in the Assembly, one in the Senate. One of my clients was in the marijuana industry – one of the licensed growers and distributors in New York state.
Going forward on your campaign, who will be your greatest opposition?
Traditional Republicans who would like to see someone more conservative than I am. I’m a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Republican, and I think that makes sense for the future of the party.
You also have the challenge of being elected in a mostly Democratic state…
I’m up against a state that has huge Democratic overlay.