This Is Where Mike Pence Stands on Cannabis

By David Jenison

This Is Where Mike Pence Stands on Cannabis

Vice President Michael Dick Pence is a Ted Cruz- and Tea Party-endorsing religious conservative who signed laws to legalize LGBTQ discrimination, mandate funerals for aborted fetuses and limit lawsuits against gunmakers. Not surprisingly, the Indiana governor is also a big supporter of cannabis prohibition and the Drug War. 

In 2013, Indiana Public Media ran the headline, “Senators Up Marijuana Penalties to Appease the Governor,” stating that Pence fought to include tougher penalties for low-level cannabis offenses. House Bill 1006 sought to reduce possession charges, while Pence wanted to increase them. Thanks to the governor’s efforts, any amount of cannabis now results in up to six months behind bars, while second offenses can net a year or more. In fact, a person can land in jail simply for being in a place “where knowledge of drug activity occurs,” even if there is no evidence that the person has ever touched a cannabis plant. Earlier this year, he also a signed a law that reinstated 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug-sale crimes. 

Pence, who thinks cannabis is extremely dangerous, says tobacco cigarettes aren't so bad. He penned a 2001 op-ed that claimed, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness.” 

The guy who thinks cannabis is deadly thinks tobacco is not, save for the unfortunate one-in-three smokers who do die from cigarettes, per his statistics. Of course, the accurate figure is one-in-three smokers survive, but Pence ain't actually a facts and figures kind of guy. 

Pence continued, “The relevant question is, what is more harmful to the nation, second hand smoke or back handed big government disguised in do-gooder healthcare rhetoric…. A government big enough to go after smokers is big enough to go after you.”

In the same way that prohibitionists say there is not enough evidence that medical cannabis works, Pence argues that there is not enough evidence that tobacco causes lung cancer, and we are guessing he believes Jonah literally spent three days inside the belly of a whale. While still in Congress, he also voted against the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which “imposed new warnings and labels on tobacco packaging and their advertisements, with the goal of discouraging minors and young adults from smoking.” The law, which easily passed, also banned flavored cigarettes and limited advertising to children. As governor, he cut funding for the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation office. 

Ironically, Slate published the headline “Mike Pence Might Be a Cigarette Dressed Up As a Person” last fall, noting he cashed in more than $100,000 in political contributions from tobacco companies. Because that's what Jesus would do.  

Pence believes in zero-tolerance, punishment-over-treatment cannabis laws, yet his fierce resistance to tobacco taxation suggests he would shit a brick if the government ever instituted criminal tobacco prohibition. Then again, maybe his Big Tobacco donors helped motivate his support for putting people in jail for nearly half a year for a single cannabis cigarette.

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