âStatesâ Rights! Statesâ Rights!â: These Pro-Marijuana Conservatives Make the Case for Legalizing Pot
DENVER (TheBlaze/AP) â Itâs not all hippies backing Novemberâs marijuana legalization votes in Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
Appealing to Western individualism and a mistrust of federal government, activists have lined up some prominent conservatives, from one-time presidential hopefuls Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul to Republican-turned-Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
âThis is truly a nonpartisan issue,â said Mark Slaugh, a volunteer for the Colorado initiative who is based in Colorado Springs, which has more Republicans than anywhere else in the state.
âStatesâ rights! Statesâ rights!â Slaugh cried as he handed out flyers about the stateâs pot measure outside a rally last month by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Quite a few passing Republicans took the flyer.
âItâs fiscally prudent. It would be taxed, regulated, monitored. It makes a lot of sense to Republicans,â he said.
Most Republicans still oppose legalization. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney vows to enforce federal law. When Ryan told a Colorado Springs TV station in September that medical marijuana was âup to Coloradans to decide,â his campaign quickly backtracked and said he agreed with Romney.
When activists make their appeal, it goes like this: States should dictate drug law. Decades of federal prohibition have failed where personal responsibility and old-fashioned parenting will succeed. Politicians back East have no business dictating what the states do.
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âWhat is the law against marijuana if it isnât the Nanny State telling you what you can do and what you canât do to your body and with your body?â asked Tancredo, a former Republican congressman from suburban Denver who briefly ran for president in 2008 and endorsed the measure on the steps of the state capitol. He compared federal law to New York Cityâs ban on sugary sodas.
Tancredo launched a radio ad this week in which he compares marijuana prohibition to alcohol prohibition as a âfailed government programâ that, in this case, âsteers Colorado money to criminals in Mexico.â
âProponents of big government have duped us into supporting a similar prohibition of marijuana â even though it can be used safely and responsibly by adults,â Tancredo said.
Pot supporters have lined up other surprising allies this year, even as many Democrats oppose the measures. Conservative stalwart Pat Robertson, for example, said marijuana should be legal.
In Washington state, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Michael Baumgartner is running a longshot bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who opposes it.
âItâs taking a different approach to a very expensive drug war, and potentially a better approach,â he said.
In Oregon, at least one Republican state Senate candidate backs legalization. Cliff Hutchison reasoned that legalizing pot would âcut wasteful government spending on corrections and reduce drug gang violence.â
Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, is fiscally conservative but supports such liberal causes as legalizing marijuana, immigration reform and abortion rights. Heâs said that if elected he would pardon all non-violent prisoners convicted of marijuana-related offenses in federal court.
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Pro-pot conservatives have counterparts on the other side â Democrats who say pot shouldnât be legal without a doctorâs recommendation. Democratic governors in Colorado and Washington oppose legalization. Oregonâs Democratic governor has not taken a stand.
President Barack Obamaâs administration has shut down medical marijuana dispensaries in California and Colorado.
Republican Colorado state Sen. Steve King is a frequent critic of Coloradoâs medical marijuana law. Conservatives abhor government, but they also fear legalization would increase childrenâs drug use, he said. âItâs pretty easy to come in and say, `Letâs decrease government.â And Iâm all for that. This just isnât the place to start,â King said.
âWe have a next generation to protect,â he said.
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