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Gaetz Visits Pensacola During Recess

U.S. House

U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) visited Pensacola Monday morning, and spoke with the media on a number of topics.

Gaetz emerged from a radio town hall meeting, which covered a number of issues.

“From gun control to the rising political violence in our society, the collapse of fatherhood, and also the provision of care from the [Veterans Administration],” said Gaetz.

At one and a half million people, Northwest Florida is home to the heaviest concentration of vets living in the state of Florida, and one of the highest in the nation. The Congressman directed veterans seeking help in dealing with the Veterans Administration to the website www.gaetz.house.gov.

“Whether it’s getting appointments, or getting designations for different levels of disability, we’ve got a team that’s paid for by the American taxpayer to help our veterans,” said Gaetz. “Eight out of every 10 times the phone rings in my office, it’s a veteran who’s calling because they’re having a challenge with the VA.”

Last week, Gaetz was admonished by the Florida Bar over a threatening tweet he sent to President Trump’s former attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen. The committee investigating said that while the tweet was “reckless” and was not condoned, it did not rise to the level of violating the bar’s rules. 

“I think we can all be better on social media; I am certainly no exception from that rule,” Gaetz said. “There are times when I’ve sent a tweet that I’ve had to take back and apologize for. And I’m glad in this case, my apology was accepted and there won’t be any professional consequence for me with my fellow attorneys.”

One of the issues nearest and dearest to Gaetz’ heart is expanding the legalization of medical marijuana – something he began work on as a state legislator. He credits Gov. Ron DeSantis with overseeing the changes in hearts and minds in Florida, where smokable medical pot is now available with a prescription. But he says more action is needed at the federal level.

“I will be meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr in the coming weeks to discuss the Department of Justice’s approach to unlocking more research grants,” said Gaetz. “So that we can have American innovation applied to our health care in a way that can get people off of some of these devastating opioids and painkillers, and on to a more natural product.”

Therein lies the rub. While medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia, all forms of pot remain illegal under federal law as a Schedule I drug – lumped in with heroin and cocaine.

“The federal government listing marijuana as a Schedule I drug impairs financial transactions; it impairs research and it stops us from being able to unlock cures for some of America’s most vulnerable people,” Gaetz said. “I’ve got legislation to take marijuana off of the Schedule I list; it is supported broadly by Republicans and Democrats.”

Gaetz is asking House Judiciary Chairman Gerald Nadler to schedule a hearing on marijuana reform legislation.

Meanwhile, Amanda Kondrat’yev is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 17 in federal court in Pensacola, on her guilty plea to throwing a cup of sports drink at Gaetz after a town hall meeting in June. Gaetz was hit on the arm but not injured. He says protest and dissent are critical to American democracy at its highest level.

“I never mind when people express different views than those I hold; but no one will ever be permitted to break the peace at any Open Gaetz Day or any event where I invite constituents,” said Gaetz. “And if anyone does break the peace – like the lady who threw a drink on me – they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

When Congress returns from its August recess, Gaetz says a number of issues regarding Florida’s First District await, including passage of the National Defense Authorization Act – now in conference between the House and Senate.

“There are pay raises for our troops there; there are resources dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico test range,” said Gaetz. “There is the end of the ‘Widow Tax,’ which impacts a lot of surviving spouses in northwest Florida. We’ve got to get that passed, we’ve got to get it done. Unfortunately, that’s been a partisan process so far.”

Cong. Matt Gaetz is also calling for passage of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement – which would replace NAFTA – which he contends would provide a “huge boost” to the productive sector of the U.S. economy.