Mitt Romney Clarifies Position on Medical Marijuana. Sort of.

Last week, Scott Morgan at made the argument that it may be premature to think that Mitt Romney would be worse than President Obama when it comes to marijuana policy. He accurately pointed out that Romney was not in favor of medical marijuana, but that he also hadn’t really explained his position clearly. Romney certainly was not openly suggesting the kind of attacks perpetrated by the Obama administration over the last few years. To assume that he would be worse than Obama simply because he is a Republican, the party traditionally most opposed to marijuana policy reform, would be reactionary.

Well, Romney still has not clearly laid out his position, but he gave us all some hints in an interview published the following day. He only spoke about the issue under duress and berated the reporter for bringing it up, saying that marijuana policy reform was not a significant issue.

Here is the gist of what he said:

“I think marijuana should not be legal in this country. I believe it’s a gateway drug to other drug violations. The use of illegal drugs in this country is leading to terrible consequences in places like Mexico and actually in our own country,” said Mr. Romney. “I oppose legalization of marijuana. I oppose legalization of other kinds of drugs, but I can tell you that I have a plan to get this economy going.”

What can we tell from this? Well, most obviously, Mitt Romney does not support making marijuana legal. He outright opposes it.

He is also woefully uninformed of the research showing that the gateway theory is junk science and that prohibition brings marijuana users in contact with harder drugs. In previous interviews, he has also stated that he does not think marijuana is medicine, despite the mountains of research to the contrary.

He does not understand that since marijuana has never killed a single user in recorded history, it must be our marijuana policies that are causing “terrible consequences” in Mexico

He does not understand that making marijuana legal could help get our economy going. In fact, if states were only free to develop their medical marijuana industries without federal interference, they could reap the economic benefits the way Colorado, which has more than 4,000 marijuana industry workers, has done.

That’s all pretty bad. But does it mean that President Romney would use federal resources to interfere with state medical marijuana laws?

Maybe not. In the same interview, Romney also says, “I’m not running on marriage and marijuana. Those are state issues.”

Dare we hope that Romney believes in states’ rights to such an extent that he would respect state medical marijuana laws, even though he feels so negatively about marijuana?

You be the judge. Just take a look at his other positions on states' rights issues first.

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Ron Paul Argues for Ending Prohibition on “The Tonight Show”

People who are familiar with Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul have probably heard him speak about the need to end marijuana prohibition in the past. In fact, he mentions it quite often these days. Considering that only one other Republican candidate shares this opinion, it isn’t unusual to hear Paul bring this up in debate. Not only does this set him apart from the other candidates, but it is very telling to hear the rest of the field claim to be “conservatives” in favor of limited government and personal freedom, while supporting what is arguably the most intrusive, expensive, and wasteful government policy in existence.

This weekend, however, Ron Paul shared that message with a significant portion of America while speaking with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show.” Judging from the audience response (not to mention a recent Gallup poll that shows a majority of voters support making marijuana legal), the need to end marijuana prohibition is becoming more obvious.

Perhaps this is why Ron Paul stands a very good chance of winning the Iowa primary.

Here is the entire interview. The section on prohibition starts at 6:35. Stay tuned until the end and see longtime MPP supporter Joe Rogan make an appearance!

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Senators Hutchison and Coburn: Double Standard on States’ Rights

If you’ve been following news in the drug policy world, you know that Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) is sponsoring the National Criminal Justice Commission Act. The bill would create a blue-ribbon panel that, according to Webb, would “take the long-overdue step of undertaking a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, producing recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice at every step of the criminal justice system.” Among the many reasons Webb feels the commission is needed, “the number of incarcerated drug offenders has soared 1200% since 1980.” Sounds sensible enough, right?

Last night, the U.S. Senate narrowly shot down an amendment that would have established such a commission. Why? States’ rights of course.

“We are absolutely ignoring the Constitution if we do this,” said noted drug warrior Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). “We have no role … to involve ourselves in the criminal court system or the penal system in my state or any other state.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) was even more incredulous: “This is the most massive encroachment on states' rights I have ever seen in this body,” she said.

Never mind that the bill wouldn’t actually change any state laws; it would only establish a commission to review policies and make non-binding recommendations. At this point, you might be curious how these senators feel about the Department of Justice threatening to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries in California. So was I, so I called their offices.

“Given the senator’s strong support for states’ rights, where does s/he stand on the Department of Justice threatening to close medical marijuana dispensaries in California, even though medical marijuana is legal under state law,” I asked, after repeating each senator’s quotes above.  Not surprisingly, each time I was transferred around a couple times, given a “no comment,” and told to leave a voicemail that’ll almost certainly never be returned. Before Sen. Coburn’s office sent me to voicemail purgatory, I did get one staffer to mutter “um … well … he um … he’s opposed to medical … er, I’m not sure.”

Anyone else reminded of the Robot on Lost in Space: “does not compute?”

We will of course update this if we get any sort of official response. In the mean time, maybe you’ll have better luck than me. If you live in Texas, you can ask Sen. Hutchison again by calling 202-224-5922. If you’re reading this from Oklahoma, Sen. Coburn’s office number is 202-224-5754.

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Medical Marijuana

Montana Fights Back Against State, Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana Patients

In an act of outright legislative interference, S.B. 423, “repeal in disguise,” promised to regulate but instead flouted voters’ wishes and cruelly and arbitrarily gutted Montana’s medical marijuana program, shuttering most providers and reducing the number of patients. By mid-August, the number of patients had dropped by 10% and only 1% of medical marijuana providers remained in business, leaving patients without access to medicine.

However, Montanans have fought back. First, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association got a judge to temporarily block implementation of part of the law. Even more excitingly, Patients for Reform — Not Repeal successfully collected enough signatures to put a referendum to overturn S.B. 423 on the November 2012 ballot! The Secretary of State confirmed that the referendum had already exceeded the minimum signature requirements, and organizers announced they collected more than 46,000 signatures. Kudos to the petitioners; we will keep you updated!

Sadly, another legislative move overturning the will of the people, H.B. 391, went into effect on Saturday. It is intended to overturn Missoula County’s Initiative 2, which made marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. As a result, local initiatives may not de-prioritize the enforcement of state law. Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, who pushed for the bill, says he will move forward with prosecution of marijuana misdemeanors.

Luckily, many Montanans are very upset by these attempts to overturn the will of the voters, and are lending support to the medical marijuana community. Even the Attorney General Steve Bullock is speaking out, although more so about the ATF announcing that it is illegal for medical marijuana patients to purchase or possess firearms.

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