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October 29, 2010

"Pot and the GOP: Is the party of ‘Just Say No’ morphing into the party of ‘Just Say Grow’?"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable and effective new piece in Newsweek.  Here are excerpts:

You’d expect aging flower children to fight for the right to get high. But aging conservatives?  As the ideals of the Tea Party’s most vocal libertarians infiltrate the Republican ranks, and state and federal officials slash budgets even as they pump cash into an expensive war on drugs, some conservatives are making the case for legalizing marijuana.  It isn’t Nancy Pelosi who’s speaking out in favor of legalized pot — she’s been careful not to take a position on Prop 19 — but rather her Republican challenger in California, John Dennis.  And in Massachusetts, Barney Frank’s Tea Party–backed Republican opponent, Sean Bielat, has said he leans libertarian on the issue, and it hasn’t hurt his race against the longtime congressman, who strongly supports decriminalization of pot.  “As you see the liberty wing of the Republican Party grow, you’ll see more support for legalization,” says Dennis, who drew cheers during a campaign stop recently at the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo in San Francisco, where his staff altered his campaign sign to sport Rastafarian colors and a pot leaf.  Republican power broker Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, points out that legalization can make sense from a conservative perspective because it touches on issues of national security and fiscal prudence.  “First, there is the mess that is Mexico.  Narcoterrorism is made possible by our drug prohibition in the U.S.  Then there is the cost of incarceration,” he says.  Gary Johnson, the Republican former governor of New Mexico and a putative presidential candidate for 2012, says he believes that “Proposition 19 has the opportunity to be the domino that could bring about rational drug policy nationwide.”

Pundits like Fox News’s Glenn Beck and former judge Andrew Napolitano have also joined in the debate, on the pro-legalization side.  “You know what, I think it’s about time we legalize marijuana. Hear me out for a second…” Beck told viewers in April.  “We have to make a choice in this country.  We have to either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars, or we legalize it.  But this little game we’re playing in the middle is not helping us, is not helping Mexico, and is causing massive violence on our southern border.”  Even Sarah Palin, who’s opposed to legalization, has called pot a relatively “minimal problem,” telling Fox Business Network this summer, “I think we need to prioritize our law-enforcement efforts.  And if somebody’s gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else harm, 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.”  (Palin has copped to trying pot during the time it was decriminalized in Alaska, but said she didn’t like it.)

Legalization may not carry the day in California: in a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, support has fallen to 44 percent in favor of Prop 19 from 52 percent in September.  Yet Prop 19 has sparked a surprisingly sober national discussion lacking in the hyperbole that has long surrounded marijuana.

Some related posts on pot policy and politics:

October 29, 2010 at 01:17 PM | Permalink


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I hope someone will explain to me why it's the Republicans' responsibility to re-make marijuana laws when the Democrats have had fat Congressional majorities for four years and the White House for the last two.

I also confess I laughed out loud when I saw the article cite Glenn Beck, otherwise known in liberal circles as "Satan." Gads, what next? How about bringing in Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales? I guess when times are tough, some scrounging has to be done.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 29, 2010 2:29:46 PM

Bill, I think it is a bi-partisan position now. I'm hoping for a bi-partisan presidential ticket in 2012 Gary Johnson with Jim Webb as his running mate - or Jim Webb with Gary Johnson.

Posted by: beth | Oct 29, 2010 3:57:07 PM

beth --

In a sense, you're right. It is bipartisan, since many liberals (mostly Dems) favor legalization, and some conservatives (namely libertarians, almost all Reps) also favor it. This isn't new, however. What's new is that libertarians are more influential with the Reps than in the past. But the coalition won't last beyond pot. Liberals want bigger government, while libertarians want a far smaller one.

If the Dems get clocked next week, which they will, and if Obama's approval rating keeps heading to George Bush territory, there is going to be a fight for the Dem nomination in 2012, similar to the fight in 1980. But Webb won't get it. Hillary, who I expect to see jump off this ship soon after next Tuesday, will get it and would be a formidable candidate.

Formidable, that is, except that a successful challenge to Obama creates a huge problem for the Dems. As Doug once pointed out to me, depriving Obama of the nomination will frost huge numbers of blacks, without whom no Dem presidential candidate can win.

Webb won't be able to run as a moderate independent, either. Bloomberg with his zillions will do that (maybe). But for all his money, Bloomberg looks old and worn out. I doubt he can be elected.

My proposed Republican ticket is Clarence Thomas and David Patraeus. Unfortunately, that won't happen either. Given the mugging Thomas took at his confirmation hearing, there's no way he'd agree to run.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 29, 2010 6:32:07 PM

Gosh - we each have our own dream ticket. I am pretty well exhausted by the incivility of it all. Each side could be a little more creative than thinking that they can scold, shame, or bully folks to agree with them.

Power is an intoxicating force and once you have it, it's hard to stick to principles if you think that you will lose the power.

Webb was a republican and has instincts favoring a smaller less intrusive government but your right, I probably won't get my dream ticket. I agree Bloomberg is tired. I don't think that the libertarian wing of the republican party would cotton to his nanny state vision however and he's too moderate for the other side.

My regrets to you also. I don't think your ticket will fly either. We'll have to stay alert.

Posted by: beth | Oct 29, 2010 8:15:02 PM

Per the AP on Yahoo.com on 29 October the director of a maximum-security federal prison notorious for the escape of Mexico's top kingpin was arrested for alleged ties to drug gangs.


Assuming for the purpose of this comment that the director is compromised, did the money used to bribe or intimidate or blackmail him come solely from the pockets of US pot smokers?

Legalizing just marijuana does not degrade the drug cartels' ability to hollow out Mexico's criminal justice system. If marijuana is legalized, the cartels will simply invest the money they would have otherwise invested in marijuana into the distribution of other street drugs in the US.

Posted by: Fred | Oct 30, 2010 4:00:46 PM

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