Will Ron Paul Supporters Follow?
For all the love showered upon him by cannabis and hemp activists, Ron Paul was always going to be a bitter pill for liberals to swallow.
On the surface, the straight-talking Texan sounded good for voters weary with mainstream party choices: The long-tenured congressman said he'd end federal involvement in the Drug War and open up the clandestine world of the Federal Reserve Bank, for example. On the other hand, he also said he'd kill off the EPA, work to repeal Roe v. Wade, was no friend to gay marriage, and voted to build a fence along the Mexico border. (He also fathered U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose plan to cut federal spending by $500 billion has been generously described as "regressive").
That Paul garnered so much heated support from people he disagreed with on a host of other issues was a sign of how polemic the marijuana issue had become. But barring a true coup, Paul will not be on the November 2012 ballot.
Consideration now passes to Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico. The Libertarian Party's candidate for president ardently supports the legalization and taxation (goodbye, Tea Party) of marijuana -- and is anti-fence, and pro-women's right to choose. He also appeared with Gavin Newsom on the same Los Angeles stage during a November drug policy conference.
And he'll need help from Paul's army if he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Obama, Romney, or even Santorum (paging Dan Savage?).
Without a third-party candidate, many marijuana-friendly voters feel they have nowhere to go. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, has been outspoken in his opposition to the mere idea of medical marijuana, let alone the practice. And the Marijuana Policy Project has since last fall -- when Obama's Justice Department began shutting down state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries -- been describing President Barack Obama as the "worst-ever" president on the issue. "There's no question" he's the worst, Rob Kampia, the MPP's president, told Rolling Stone in February.
Yet loyal Democrats, including United Food and Commercial Workers, which is attempting to bring the nascent medical marijuana industry into the organized labor fold, are standing by the president. And only the most myopic of voters would support the likes of Romney out of pure pique or over a single issue.
It is true that seizures of marijuana plants are higher than ever before, and in San Francisco, Obama's Justice Department has shut down five licensed marijuana dispensaries; it has plans to shut down four more -- nine more dispensaries than Bush closed. Yet it's also true that most of Obama's drug warriors were in the same roles during Bush (e.g. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, though confirmed by Obama, was originally appointed to the role by Bush). And it's also true that it was Bush, not Obama, whose agents seized six plants from Angel Raich, who is suffering a brain tumor. Likewise, Bush's Justice Department prosecuted pot POWs Mollie Fry and Eddy Lepp.
And on their way to an Obama-era peak, marijuana plant seizures and marijuana-related arrests have been on a steady climb since the mid-2000s, possibly as a result of there being more domestically produced marijuana around more now than ever before.
In January, we caught heat for pointing out some of the finer points of constitutional law and Ron Paul's avowed dislike for federal authority. The congressman has repeatedly expressed his dislike for the Drug War, and went as far as to co-sponsor several bills that would have returned enforcement of marijuana and other substances to the states. That, however, would not legalize marijuana; it would merely remove the federal government from the equation. States, as many people serving time in county jail and state prisons would tell you, still outlaw the drug, and Paul's policies would not have affected that.
Johnson appears willing to go a step further, calling in campaign material for marijuana to be taxed as well as legalized. "The billions saved on marijuana interdiction, along with the billions captured as legal revenue, can be redirected against the individuals committing real crimes against society," he writes on his website.
Yet Paul shows no signs of quitting, appearing last week at a rally in California at UC Davis. On Sunday, the Republican parties of Maine and Nevada voted to send a majority of Paul delegates to the August party convention in Tampa.
Will Paul encourage his supporters to give Johnson the bully pulpit on national debate stages this fall?
Maybe. Crazier things have happened -- like Ross Perot.
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