Obama, Romney, Marijuana and Colorado
Above: Mitt Romney on marijuana in May, 2012
Below is a clip of Romney in 2007, "I believe marijuana should be illegal in our country." He says cancer patients don't need marijuana, "there are other sources of pain management that work entirely effectively. He says marijuana legalization "is the wrong way to go. We need less drugs in our society" and "I would oppose the legalization of marijuana." [More...]
More Romney in 2007: Marijuana is a gateway drug, "I don't want medical marijuana...Don't open the door to medicinal marijuana."
Yesterday, Matt Taylor at Salon wrote that President Obama's position on marijuana could cost him Colorado in November. I wrote about Obama and the Colorado marijuana vote last month after reading a Reuters article on the topic, noting that in Denver, a city with 600,000 residents, one of every 41 residents has a medical marijuana card. Denver has 400 medical marijuana dispensaries. Consider that Starbucks has only 350 coffee stores in the entire state.
Salon's article focuses on former (Republican) New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, a long time marijuana legalization advocate, now a Libertarian candidate for President, and suggests that Johnson's candidacy and voters' opposition to Obama's enforcement efforts, might result in Romney carrying the state.
I disagree. If Romney takes Colorado, it won't be because of marijuana reform voters. They know Romney, like most Republicans, is far worse on drug war issues. But the article does present both sides, and I think these quotes offer the better assessment:
Whether it helps Obama or hurts him, the pot issue certainly won’t play to Romney’s advantage in any direct sense. The guy is the archetypal narc, a Mormon who harangued a neighbor for smoking on the beach outside his mansion in San Diego and impersonated a police officer more than once as a young man, playing pranks on his friends by pulling them over with a siren mounted on his car.
“People who turn out for Amendment 64 are very unlikely to pull the lever for Romney,” says Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
As to Johnson, Wanda James, a 2008 bundler for Obama who runs a marijuana edible business, tells Salon:
I think a lot of people are trying to support Gary Johnson, but it’s the wrong move right now....We'll be cutting off our nose to spite our face if we allow Romney to win this election, because it would be the end of the marijuana industry. At least under Barack Obama there is some pretense for the industry to exist.
The Salon article concludes with:
If he fails to budge on pot between now and Election Day, Obama will effectively be wagering that Willard Mitt Romney is so terrifying to the pro-pot community that its voters will choose the devil they know over the one they don’t.
I think that's a safe bet. Coloradans and drug war reformers in particular aren't stupid. We may face two devils, but Obama, is by far the lesser evil and presents the lesser threat.
In the 2010 Governor's race in Colorado:
Democrat John Hickenlooper and Republican Dan Maes both oppose legalization. American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo supports it. “Legalize it. Regulate it. Tax it,” Tancredo said at a debate last week in conservative Colorado Springs.
Tancredo, a former Republican, needless to say, lost to Hickenlooper by a huge margin.
I think this article by Joshua Green is more on the mark.
I think Coloradans will vote to pass Amendment 64, the marijuana legalization measure on the ballot in November. Its time has arrived. It's no longer a partisan issue here. The initiative is supported by many Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents.
Salon writes "The surprising about-face [of Obama] has inspired former supporters in Colorado to try to legalize the drug outright." That's not accurate in my view. While former Obama supporters may support the measure, it's been in the works for years -- way before Obama came on the scene -- ever since Denver legalized personal marijuana in November, 2005. It is not on the ballot because of anything Obama did or didn't do. It's on the ballot because drug war reformers from many diverse groups, such as SAFER, Sensible Colorado, NORML and Marijuana Policy Project, have worked their tails off the past 6-7 years to get it there.
For example, SAFER Colorado announced plans for a state-wide legalization measure in December, 2005. More here. Coloradans rejected the measure in November, 2006, and SAFER and other groups made plans to reintroduce it. This all pre-dates Obama by years. In 2006, only 37% of Coloradans supported legalization. Today, in large part due to the hard work of these groups, more than 60% of Coloradans support legalization.
Also consider, Romney supporters are among the prime opponents of the current legalization measure:
Two-thirds of the entire the budget for the “No on Amendment 64″ committee has been provided by a Florida-based nonprofit called “Save Our Society From Drugs.” The organization was founded by Betty Sembler, a veteran Drug Warrior whose husband is on the Mitt Romney for President finance team. According to one biography of Sembler, she has been awarded an “honorary agent status by the DEA” and was pivotal in founding drug rehabilitation clinics and the Drug Free America Foundation. From 1976 to 1993, the Sembler family operated a drug rehabilitation clinic known as STRAIGHT Inc., which closed down after a shocking series of scandals that revealed that clients faced rape, faced beatings, forced hunger, and other abuses at the clinics.
Still not convinced? Here's Romney blowing off a medical marijuana patient in a wheelchair in 2007.
If you think the times have mellowed him, you're wrong. Here he is in 2012, "I'm in favor of the law not allowing legal marijuana."
Here's what Amendment 64 in Colorado provides:
Amendment 64, otherwise known as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, makes personal adult use of marijuana legal, establishes a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol, and allows for the cultivation of industrial hemp. This measure will appear on the Colorado ballot during this year’s presidential election– which means that history will be made at the polls on November 6, 2012.
I have no expectations Obama will ease up on the War on Drugs. But since we know that Republicans will keep escalating it, just as they will our over-reliance on incarceration, the choice in November on this issue is clear: Obama.
As to Gary Johnson, his Libertarian positions are in large part good ones. I hope they get a lot of exposure. Personally, I think Reuters has it right that he will siphon votes from Romney in Colorado, not Obama. It's more persuasive to me than the Salon article. And keep in mind,
The Libertarian Party has never made much of an impression on a presidential campaign. The high-water mark for the party was 1.1 percent of the vote, achieved in 1972. In the last presidential campaign, former Georgia Representative Bob Barr topped the Libertarian ticket and received 523,000 votes.
Romney and Obama aside, if you live in Colorado, make sure you register and vote for Amendment 64. The full text of the initiative is here. Help make Colorado the first state in the nation to legalize personal, adult use of marijuana. It's time. It matters.
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