The Russ Belville Show

RAMPAll right, political quiz time!  Can you name the tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show friends of Howard Dean who recently issued the following pro-dope marijuana legalization quotes?

“I don’t want to promote that but I also don’t want to put people in jail who make a mistake.  There are a lot of young people who do this and then later on in their twenties they grow up and get married and they quit doing things like this. I don’t want to put them in jail and ruin their lives.  Look, the last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and I really think, you know, look what would have happened, it would have ruined their lives. They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys, and they go to jail for these things and I think it’s a big mistake.”

That would be Republican Senator Rand Paul.

“I am proud to introduce legislation with my friend Rand Paul that will allow Kentucky farmers to harness the economic potential that industrial hemp can provide.  During these tough economic times, this legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky’s economy and to our farmers and their families.”

That would be Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

To be clear, I do not consider marijuana use a good thing for society. I have never used marijuana personally and do not encourage others to indulge. But as the son of a violent alcoholic, I know enough to appreciate that it is irrational to have laws in place that allow the use of alcohol, yet punish adults who choose to use a less harmful and less dangerous substance.

Across the board, our current system of marijuana prohibition has failed. It has failed to protect our kids from drug dealers pushing other, far more dangerous drugs, it has failed to keep our borders safe, and it has failed to use taxpayer dollars in the most responsible and efficient manner possible.

It is time to try something new. Please join me in voting yes on [Colorado' marijuana legalization] Amendment 64 this November.

That would be Republican former Representative Tom Tancredo.

I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.  If people can go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of alcohol and drink it at home legally, then why do we say that the use of this other substance is somehow criminal?”

That would be Republican former presidential candidate Pat Robertson.

Hardly the latte-drinking, body-piercing set, huh?

To be fair, the Democratic Party still has a larger base of support for marijuana reform, at least in the US House.  Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) are solid supporters of marijuana rights in the US House.  But while the Senate Minority Leader McConnell is on FOX News supporting hemp and recent filibuster-star Senator Rand Paul is on FOX News calling for ending marijuana prohibition, Senate Majority Leader Reid is silent on the issue.

Democratic Senators are notorious for opposing marijuana rights even when the voters of their own states are in majority disagreement with them.  Sure, Senators Wyden and Merkley from Oregon are standing with Senators McConnell and Paul on the hemp issue, but when marijuana legalization was on the Oregon ballot, Wyden and Merkley wouldn’t comment on the measure (though Wyden has issued anti-legalization stands in the past).

When marijuana legalization was on the Washington ballot, Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) office opposed it, saying, “I don’t believe [marijuana] should be legalized for recreational purposes.”  Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) opposed Initiative 502 as well, echoing her 2009 statement to a constituent, “I do not support legalizing or decriminalizing currently illegal drugs, including marijuana.”

When marijuana legalization was on the Colorado ballot, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) supported the No on 64 campaign with the quote “A constitutional amendment to make this type of change leaves cause for concern. Looking at this as a parent, it goes too far.”  Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) made no comments about the Amendment 64 campaign that I can find, but he has in the past co-sponsored the States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act.

When California was voting on Prop 19 in 2010, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was against it and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) was chairing the committee to oppose it.

Just think fellas, in four years, 4/20 WILL be legal... no thanks to Obama.

Just think fellas, in four years, 4/20 WILL be legal… no thanks to Obama.

I have been warning Democrats that Republicans would steal this issue and its younger supporters since the drug war was invisible at Barack Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.  Since that convention, four western states have voted on marijuana legalization and their eight Democratic Senators have opposed it or not supported it.

I’m not the only one now recognizing that a GOP with an aging and soon-to-be white minority could gain much needed younger voters by openly supporting marijuana rights.  Nate Cohn writing for the uber-conservative New Republic agrees.

Young voters might be pro-Obama, but they’re even more pro-marijuana. While 60 percent of 18-29 year olds supported the president’s reelection, the CBS News and Quinnipiac polls, as well as the Washington and Colorado exit polls, show an impressive 65-70 percent of voters under age 30 supporting marijuana legalization….

Fortunately for Republicans, they actually have a rare opportunity here to seize the middle ground and appeal to younger voters…. CBS News found that 65 percent of Republicans support allowing state governments to determine the legality of marijuana, compared to just 29 percent who believed the federal government should decide….

Marijuana’s ascent as a national issue will force Republicans to choose between breaking with the conservative base or undermining their efforts to rejuvenate support from young voters, who so far have only shown interest in libertarian-leaning Republicans like Ron Paul. If Republicans don’t seize the middle ground on marijuana legalization, Democrats will eventually use the issue to their advantage. Not only will Democratic primary voters demand it, they will have a lot to gain. As more younger, pro-marijuana voters enter the electorate and replace their elders, support for marijuana legalization will continue to increase, absent intervening events that reshape public opinion, like a disastrous ending to the experiments in Colorado and Washington. If marijuana becomes another partisan social issue, like gay marriage or abortion, it will make it even more difficult for Republicans to appeal to millennial voters.

States rights.  Limited government.  Cut wasteful spending.  Personal responsibility.  Individual freedom.  There’s five bumper-sticker Republican philosophies you could put on an “End Federal Marijuana Prohibition” flier at a GOP Convention in 2016.

Meanwhile, as Senate Democrats out West are ambivalent to or opposing marijuana legalization, on the East Coast, Senator Warren from the liberal bastion of Massachusetts is openly mocking her potential Republican opponent’s support of marijuana legalization.

“I advise everyone to pay very close attention to Dan Winslow’s platform. He has a 100 percent ranking from the gun lobby and he’s for the legalization of marijuana. He wants us armed and stoned.”

What was it that Massachusetts Republican State Representative Dan Winslow stood for that deserved Senator Warren’s derision?

I disfavor decriminalization of marijuana because it increases demand from illicit sources. Instead, I think we need to legalize marijuana (likely starting with medicinal marijuana in view of the current federal prohibition) and then regulate it and tax it. Only by lawful production of marijuana will the cartels, crooks and drug dealers be put out of business in the US.

Senate Democrats had better heed the demographic and voting realities of the marijuana legalization issue or Republicans, desperate for younger and minority voters, will turn this into a social wedge issue in their favor.  Pat Robertson has given them cover with the Christian Conservatives.  Libertarians and business-minded Republicans are ready to make some money from marijuana.  Even seniors are beginning to see the medicinal and recreational benefits of cannabis.  After all, marijuana legalization got 50,000 more votes in Colorado than President Obama did, and as Cohn at New Republic notes:

“Young voters might be pro-Obama, but they’re even more pro-marijuana. While 60 percent of 18-29 year olds supported the president’s reelection, the CBS News and Quinnipiac polls, as well as the Washington and Colorado exit polls, show an impressive 65-70 percent of voters under age 30 supporting marijuana legalization.”

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  • moldy

    I’m thinking Liz Warren was just following the president’s lead. Our flaming ex-pot head president is basically the cause of the Democrat’s weak support for cannabis law reform. Without any leadership from the WH on this issue the spineless chicken chit’s (AKA the Democrats) support will blow in the breeze. And like Russ has been saying for years now if the Republicans snatch this issue “away” from these clowns we’ll see our next Republican president in 2016. Obama can show some respect to CO and WA by not raiding state legal producers but will he? He knows the next election is just around the corner. Does he want Hillary to fight a losing battle over weed since “there’s too much money in it” to legalize it? He’s thrown us pot heads under the bus for his first term bowing down to law enforcement and big pharma. Will he wise up? No signs of hope and change yet.

  • Shakespeare was pen name

    A bunch of liberal pot smokers joining the GOP would be a great thing. Move the whole conversation to the left. It will never happen.