As cannabis legalization becomes less and less controversial, it’s no longer just progressives who support it. Sure, Jeff Sessions still claims it's linked to violent crime and opioid addiction, but many members of his party want it legalized for both medical and recreational purposes. In fact, a Gallup poll last year found that 51 percent of Republicans supported cannabis legalization. Even among Trump voters, only 18 percent believe cannabis should be illegal, according to an America First Policies poll. Here are a few otherwise conservative politicians who prove that legalization is becoming less of a party issue and more of a common-sense one.
In April, former Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that he was joining the advisory board of the cannabis company Acreage Holdings, surprising those who remember him saying he was “unalterably opposed” to cannabis legalization nine years prior. “Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” he told Bloomberg. “I find myself in that same position.” Still, he insisted that he hadn’t smoked himself.
Along with Boehner’s announcement, former Republican Massachusetts governor William Weld—who was also the vice presidential candidate on Gary Johnson's Libertarian Party ticket—joined Acreage Holdings’ board as well. In the same article, he told Bloomberg that he’s been in favor of medical marijuana since 1992 and supported the legalization of recreational cannabis in Massachusetts in 2016. Countering Sessions’ claim that it's a gateway drug to opioids, he said, “Cannabis could be perceived as an exit drug, not a gateway drug.”
California Representative Dana Rohrabacher is one of the House’s most vocal Trump supporters, as well as a defender of Putin and an advocate for a closer relationship with Russia. So, it might be surprising to learn he’s also a major critic of the Trump administration’s cannabis policies.
After the Attorney General nixed the Cole Memorandum, an Obama-era policy that stopped the feds from prosecuting cannabis cases in states where it was legal, Rohrabacher released a statement reading, “He is doing the bidding of an out-of-date law enforcement establishment that wants to wage a perpetual weed war and seize private citizens’ property in order to finance its backward ambitions.”
Rohrabacher was also involved in the introduction of the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment, which stops federal funds from interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws. He has a personal connection to this issue, as he’s admitted to using medical marijuana himself to treat arthritis.
Trump ally and self-admitted GOP hitman Stone has been connected to multiple Republican scandals, from working for Nixon to spreading false rumors about Michelle Obama to investigating Eliot Spitzer’s relationships with call girls. The FBI is investigating him for potential involvement in the Russia election hack. But seemingly on the other side of the political spectrum, he’s also a huge legal weed advocate.
Last year, he created the United States Cannabis Coalition to “lobby the Trump administration from the top on down to recognize the medicinal value and potential of cannabis.” In an interview with Vice, Stone said he’s supported legalization for several years and considered the drug war “an expensive, ignominious, racist failure.”
The Koch Brothers
Charles and David Koch may be noted founders and financial supporters of conservative organizations, but cannabis legalization is one issue they’re not conservative on. In response to Sessions rescinding the Cole Memorandum, they released a statement reading, "Republicans and Democrats alike have criticized the decision, and for good reason: It does little to improve the lives of people in our communities." They’ve even created online ads that read, “Keep local marijuana laws from going up in smoke.”
Image by Gage Skidmore/Flickr.