President Barack Obama recently stated that the divide between Republicans and Democrats on marijuana politics is narrowing. He went on to say that he is encouraged by recent developments because liberal Democrats are no longer the only supporters of legal marijuana. Conservative Republicans have come on board too. He is optimistic that we will soon see marijuana reclassified to a less restrictive Schedule.
“We may be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side,” said Obama. “At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”
History in the making
Last week, a trio of Senators introduced a bipartisan bill that would effectively end the federal ban on medical marijuana and implement a series of reforms. The Senators that submitted the bill are Republican Rand Paul (Ky.), Democrat Cory Booker (N.J.), and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).
“We, as a society, are changing our opinions on restricting people’s choices as far as medical treatments,” Paul said last week. He has also been a vocal critic of the war on drugs.
“There is every reason to try and give more ease to people in the states who want this — more freedom for states and individuals,” Paul added.
Senator Paul’s stance on marijuana, among other important issues, makes him a competitive candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Paul’s emphasis on states’ rights is in line with the Republican belief that the federal government should keep its hands out of local affairs. On this issue Senator Paul’s position is also a political sweet spot, as a majority of Americans back more liberal marijuana laws.
Young conservative activists strongly support legal marijuana
Legal marijuana is a hot topic around the country. The topic came up at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). CPAC is usually attended by young conservative activists who live in the Washington D.C area. Around two-thirds of the 3,000 people who participated in a straw poll said that they want to see marijuana legalized for either recreational or medicinal purposes.
At CPAC, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was asked whether he believed Colorado’s recent decision to legalize marijuana was a good idea or bad idea. Cruz said that despite his personal position on it he recognizes that states have the right to legalize marijuana.
“I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called the ‘laboratories of democracy,” Cruz said. “If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, was asked the same question and he gave pretty much the same answer.
“I thought it was a bad idea,” Bush said, “but states ought to have that right to do it. I would have voted no if I was in Colorado.”