Former Senator Mike Gravel To Run Marijuana Company

12/30/2014 04:30 pm ET | Updated Dec 31, 2014

Former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) is the new CEO of a marijuana company that produces cannabis-infused products for both recreational and medical use, the company announced Tuesday.

The Alaskan Democrat and 2008 presidential contender will lead KUSH, a subsidiary owned by Cannabis Sativa, Inc. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson serves as CEO of Cannabis Sativa, and Gravel is on that company's board of directors.

KUSH will develop and market new marijuana-infused products under Gravel's leadership, the company said in a press release.

Gravel served two terms in the Senate from 1969 to 1981, and was a candidate in the 2008 presidential race. He also has been an outspoken supporter of marijuana legalization and a staunch critic of the decades-long war on drugs.

"I feel very deeply about the failure that is marijuana prohibition," Gravel told The Huffington Post as one of the reasons why he took his new job. "Nixon is the one that put marijuana into a Schedule I. People forget that story, I lived through that. I thought it was horrible."

President Richard Nixon, who is credited as the first president to declare a "war on drugs," signed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance. Though 23 states have declared medical cannabis is legal and four have approved recreational marijuana for adults, the regulation and sale of the drug remains illegal under the CSA. The states that have legalized marijuana or softened penalties for possession have only been able to do so because of federal guidance urging federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations.

"Where we have cannabis legal today is where the people have spoken," Gravel added. "The people know better than their leaders, that's what's going on here."

Gravel was quick to note that his new position at KUSH does not mean he's giving up politics.

"It hasn't changed my whole political posturing," Gravel said. "I've been very active in the last month or so over the torture debate. And I'll continue to be active with respect to the difficulties that we're having in Iran."

In November, prior to the release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report detailing the horrors of the CIA's post 9/11 detention and interrogation program, Gravel urged Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to make the report public on the Senate floor. The move would have been similar to the one Gravel himself made with the Pentagon Papers.

In 1971, Gravel began an epic filibuster where he read the Pentagon Papers, first released by Daniel Ellsberg, during a meeting of his Senate Buildings and Grounds Subcommittee . Gravel was able to enter the remaining thousands of pages from the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record -- thereby ensuring they would be public before the Supreme Court could rule on whether or not the controversial documents could be published in the press.

Steve Kubby, chairman of the board at Cannabis Sativa, called Gravel a "true American hero" who "brings invaluable perspective" to the company.

“Senator Gravel stood up to Nixon, stood up to the Pentagon, and now he is standing up to those in power who would keep the healthful benefits of cannabis from those who need them," Kubby said in a statement.

KUSH Vice President and COO Michael Pickens told HuffPost that Gravel has been a "very active and outspoken" member of the Cannabis Sativa board of directors.

"I specifically requested to work with him for his track record of taking action and holding people accountable in government, and now he gets to use those skills to advance another worthy project," Pickens said.

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