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Libertarians and Conservatives Working to Influence GOP Concerning Marijuana

The GOP Represents the Majority of Opponents to Marijuana Legalization

Cannabis is a bipartisan issue, there are both republican and democrat supporters and opponents, but the GOP has the greatest amount of dissenters. To influence GOP members and sway their opinions, Libertarians and Conservatives wrote a letter outlining why their support swings towards legalization. What reasons do you have to oppose nationally legalized marijuana?

Support for marijuana legalization in the U.S. is the strongest it has ever been. According to a CBS News poll this year, 61 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal. Support is even more widespread for medical marijuana, with a recent Yahoo/Marist College poll finding that an astounding 83 percent of Americans believe doctors should be able to prescribe marijuana to their patients. Almost two-thirds of those polled also said they didn’t want the federal government to interfere with state-based legalization. Even among conservatives, who are traditionally opposed to marijuana use, support is growing. And on September 1st a coalition, comprised of many right- and libertarian-leaning organizations, sent a letter to Congress asking them to protect purveyors of medical marijuana when they are complying with the laws of their state.

The letter, addressed to the members of the House Rules Committee, focused on an obscure measure known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer. The bill, introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill, prevents the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using taxpayer dollars to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers in the states where medical marijuana is legal. The letter, signed by CEI, The Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Campaign for Liberty, Institute for Liberty, R Street Institute, and the Washington Office on Latin America, urged leadership to allow Congress—at the very least—to vote on Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, a measure that has been part of appropriations bills, with increasing support, for the last three years. On previous versions of the letter, Rohrabacher had been joined by now-retired Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA). According to the letter:

At the heart of the matter is the preservation of state powers. Under our Constitution, states are granted broad police powers because the founders understood that states, not the federal government, would be on the front lines of protecting health, safety and the general welfare. As a nation of diverse populations and opinions, state legislatures and local law enforcement must be free to decide how best to use their limited resources to protect public safety, raise funds, and fight crime within their borders. Rohrabacher-Farr would not prevent the federal government from enforcing federal laws criminalizing the sale or use of marijuana. It merely requires the federal government to enforce those laws in a way that respects states’ authority to legislate in this area.

But, despite increasing support for state-based cannabis regulation, GOP leadership blocked the long-standing bill. According to reports, leadership reportedly excused their behavior by claiming Rohrabacher-Blumenauer “splits the conference too much so we’re not going to have a vote on it.”

But, as Rohrabacher himself noted in passionate testimony before the House Rules Committee, his bill has received increasing congressional support over the years from both parties. In addition to the public opinion moving in favor of state-based marijuana regulation, Rohrabacher noted that Congress itself has shifted on the issue. After sixteen years of his bill being voted on and defeated, it was approved in 2014 and approved again in 2015 by an even wider margin. “We were always granted the right to have the people vote on the issue,” Rohrabacher testified. “To deny them now the right to have a vote, I think is unconscionable.”

Rohrabacher is far from the only Republican speaking up against an outdated perspective on marijuana. At a panel discussion this week, hosted by the Cato Institute—a libertarian think tank—Rep. Scott Garrett (R-VA) noted that, there are two policies “where we’re completely on our asses,” one of which is marijuana regulation. Garrett, whose conservative district abuts the North Carolina border, has introduced a measure that would federally decriminalize marijuana, noted that even among his overwhelming conservative constituency, “I didn’t have anyone vehemently opposed.”

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