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October 5, 2010

"Tea Party = Pot Party?"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting and effective report at Mother Jones.  Here are snippets:

Last month in the nation's capital, Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico and outspoken critic of big government, took the podium at Glenn Beck's 9/12 rally to talk up economic issues. He warmed up the crowd of tea partiers with tales of how he'd fended off unnecessary state spending through liberal use of the veto stamp, and how he'd boosted educational competition through charter schools. Then Johnson dropped a bomb. "Half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts, and the prisons is drug related," he proclaimed. "I suggest that legalizing marijuana will make this country a better place."

The crowd erupted in a clash of boos and applause — evidence, Johnson told me later, that the tea party is ripe for debate on the issue.  "What the tea party talks about is wise spending," he said, adding that the war on drugs was certainly no better a deal than Social Security or Medicare.  The tea party's libertarian elements, he noted, have already led to the unthinkable: "You find more Republican candidates right now espousing legalization of marijuana than you do Democrats."

He's probably right, says Allen St. Pierre, head of the pro-legalization National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which funnels 80 percent of its political donations to Democrats. "Republicans are definitely more on the record in terms of support for ending prohibition," he says.  While pot-friendly pols from either side of the aisle are still rare species, the GOP variety tends to voice unequivocal support for outright legalization.  Republican exemplars include ex-Colorado GOP congressman Tom Tancredo (now running for governor on the American Constitution Party ticket) and the GOP challengers to Reps. Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi.  Nobody, of course, is more outspoken on the issue than Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the 2008 presidential hopeful and tea party patron saint, who recently wrote that "decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level would be a start" to ending "the insanity of the War on Drugs."

GOP voters might prove receptive to such a message.  According to the Pew Research Center, a whopping 61 percent of Republicans support legalizing the drug for medical patients (as 14 states already have).  In a recent Gallup poll, nearly one-third favored legalizing pot outright. In California, pollsters have shown similar levels of Republican support for Proposition 19, the ballot initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax recreational marijuana for adults.

While Democrats favor Prop 19 at twice the rate of Republicans, pot activists insist that the tea party world is helping to narrow the gap.  Yes on 19 field director James Rigdon, who sends canvassers to most of the state's tea party rallies, believes that "individual tea party members are absolutely on board."...

Hemp legalization, in fact, has been an obsession for Take Back Kentucky, a tea party umbrella group that was an important early backer of Paul's son, Rand Paul—now the state's GOP nominee for US Senate.  At a meeting I attended in August, the group's founder, Norman Davis, pointed out that hemp was used to make the first American flags, World War II-era military supplies, and modern auto parts....

Even Sarah Palin came out sounding like a moderate.  "If somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm," she said in June on Fox's Freedom Watch, "then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in, and try to clean up some of the other problems that we have in society."...

Ultimately, though, support from Prop 19 may have less to do with ideology than frustration over the sluggish economy. Legalizing and taxing pot, according to the California State Board of Equalization, could create up to $1.4 billion in new tax revenues — no chump change for a state facing draconian cuts to education and government services.

As it stands, the statewide explosion of semi-legal medical marijuana businesses has spawned terms like "cannabusiness" and "ganjapreneurs."  Rigdon, the Prop 19 field organizer, makes his pitch to tea partiers this way: "We have a chance to grow it in America, sell it in America, and help Americans with American jobs."  Just don't say the words "green economy." 

Some related posts on pot policy and politics:

October 5, 2010 at 02:37 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Somehow, Mother Jones's love song for the Tea Party sounds like, "I'll respect you like crazy in the morning."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 5, 2010 3:01:04 PM

Just a little reminder, don't assume all who call themselves conservatives believe in the Republican Party and Platform. Also don't assume that everyone in the Tea Party voted for McCain.

You're right Bill political opinions are salacious and incestuous. I don't think there is the same level of fidelity as in the past. All this promiscuous behavior has to be perplexing to those who thought we loved them.

Posted by: beth | Oct 5, 2010 6:20:51 PM

The Pot Party was founded in 1995, when our first Prime Minister Marcus Denoon (RIP) of The USA Parliament, Inc., was elected.

How nice to have finally been discovered by the establishment press. The Pot Party URL is;
http://www.usparliament.org/potparty.htm

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