Obama, Romney, or Paul—who deserves the cannabis vote?

By M. Allister Greene

Polarization in the American political system is as common as house flies in an election year—be it in personalities of candidates, party supporters, or positions on hot button issues. This year is not turning out any differently, nor will the scale change with the many challenges facing American freedoms today.
The polarized and determining factors in this election year have formed in a wide scope of personal rights many Americans want or have, such as female reproductive rights, gay marriage, rights of workers vs. corporations, and of course drug law reform. Although this year, cannabis is taking a front line to being a dividing factor between parties and candidates, as legalization of cannabis is on one ballot currently, and there are cannabis related initiatives in many states during the 2012 presidential election.
This year’s Presidential candidates currently come down to Barack Obama, the current Democratic President; Mitt Romney the Republican (of nightmares); and Ron Paul, who is the Libertarian candidate who has been attempting to get the Republican Party nomination.
Their personalities, campaign styles, and positions on many topics such as cannabis law reform are the things magnets are made of. Though opposites are supposed to attract, and in fact the opposite positions do attract followers, these polar points instead are more likely to slam headlines at each other than to connect for any agreeable social changes. By the end, though, one of these points of opposition has to attract voters to one pole and win with massive numbers.
Many states are trying to get or have initiatives and law reform on the ballot dealing with cannabis, which will more than likely pull out the younger voters. The question is: which way will they vote? This is turning out to be a high priority in the elections this year, keeping in mind that young voters were highly accredited for Obama’s victory in 2004.
Of the biggest targets for cannabis law reform this year, Colorado’s Amendment 64, as the Denver Post reported back in the end of Feb., would make it legal for adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or six plants for cultivating for recreational use. The state has allowed medical marijuana since 2000 and has had many battles on its medical side of law reform, including a driving while high bill that did not pass this year that would have made a .5-nanogram/ml the blood limit, driving high the arrest level. Pro-legalization groups have raised $2 million to campaign for the amendment and are working around the clock, even against the stereotype stoner image, to get on the ballot and now to get the vote out.
In Michigan, after the two-year long battle, voters in Detroit might be asked to legalize adult possession and use of up to one ounce of cannabis during their Aug. 7 primary election. If they don’t collect enough signatures to have the vote in Aug., then by the Nov. 2 general election they will have enough signatures to put it to the vote. This comes after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the voters had a right to vote for a city law that goes against the State.
Other states are having similar measures, although more so in their respective state’s congress, but in Oregon, Montana, Washington, Nebraska, Ohio, Missouri, and a few others, are all working on measures of law reform in their states to vote on legalization or decriminalization. If they make it to the ballot many people will be out to vote, either because it is a presidential election or because of cannabis law reform; either way liberal voters, and some conservative voters, will be voting yes. Many of these states are states with large democratic support and Obama already has leads in many of these states as reported in many different polls.
Obama’s stance on cannabis has been up for a lot of debate in the past four years, having seemed more positive before his election, and after much compromise, his stance has become more of a cracked glass view of cannabis than what was expected. Though Obama stated, “I don’t think that should be a top priority of us, raiding people who are using […] medical marijuana. With all the things we’ve got to worry about, and our Justice Department should be doing, that probably shouldn’t be a high priority.” (June 2, 2007, town hall meeting in Laconia, New Hampshire.)
He continued on to say at a future event that: “My attitude is if the science and the doctors suggest that the best palliative care and the way to relieve pain and suffering is medical marijuana then that’s something I’m open to because there’s no difference between that and morphine when it comes to just giving people relief from pain. But I want to do it under strict guidelines. I want it prescribed in the same way that other painkillers or palliative drugs are prescribed.” (Nov. 24, 2007 town hall meeting in Iowa.)
He was also famously quoted from an interview: “I would not punish doctors if it’s prescribed in a way that is appropriate. That may require some changes in federal law. I will tell you, you know I want to be honest with you whether or not I want to use a whole lot of political capital on that issue. [small chuckle] When we are trying to get health care faster and the war in Iraq […] The likelihood of that being high on my list is not likely.” (http://youtu.be/LvUziSfMwAw MPPStaff. Apr. 21, 2001)
After President Obama’s election, Attorney General Eric Holder was answering questions in a Feb. 2009 press release after being asked about raids that were already continuing weeks after Obama took office: “What the president said during the campaign, you’ll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we’ll be doing here in law enforcement […] What he said during the campaign is now American policy.”
Even with Obama stating all of this, and a vow for a public policy change, his leaving Michele Leonhart, a Bush holdover, in charge of the DEA has kept the attack on medical cannabis dispensaries and patients since his election – it is just not bragged about as it was with Bush. Obama has not only step back on his cannabis stance he also has lost the map to the discussion on the issue, although now having stated more than once that drug law reform needs to be talked about since taking office.
Obama recently came out in support of gay marriage after his daughters made him think about it because they questioned why their friend’s parents of same sex relationships could not be married. This change in full out support of gay marriage has picked up his numbers in many polls; many feel a similar move in cannabis reform would make him a clear winner next November. Though his flip flop on the issue in the past brings the question to many people’s lips: Why? This may come from, like many parents of kids that are younger, a fear of the children getting their hands on it. Also, Obama (who admits to use as a teenager) associates cannabis with escape and goofing off, not the ability it has in meditative and logical perspective change; he acknowledges its medical use, but does not stand behind it as a civil right so much as a choice.
Now the Republican Party’s lead candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon who denies ever trying any illegal drugs, and admits to having one sip off a beer and a few puffs of a cigarette—although many people seem to associate him with the type of guy who would have a $400 very dry martini in his hand—seems to be so staunch it polarizes him from normal Americans that he is to represent if elected, as well as most world leaders.
Romney is almost as rigid as brick weed; he is all about money and approval of conservatives in America; he is down right rude about questions dealing with cannabis, and absolutely against medical cannabis. This should not surprise many since he has stock and campaign contributions coming from many pharmaceutical companies. Ironically the pro-life candidate Romney is taking money for his campaign from the makers of Plan B an abortion pill, and even attended a fundraiser held by one of the Executives of the company.
During one interview with Shaun Boyd, a Denver CBS affiliate reporter, Romney gave very irritated cut and paste responses to questions about medical cannabis use laws and legalization being voted on in her state. He has already rudely responding on gay marriage and almost demanded that she ask “more serious” questions. He took that moment and plugged oil companies of friends, backers of his campaign, and bashed renewable energy. At the end, Romney questioned why the “childish questions” of gay marriage and cannabis, asking “aren’t they only State issues,” of which the reporter had to school him that they are both state and federal issues in the election and will be issues the president has to deal with.
Romney can be seen on video at a rally when asked by an unnamed man in a wheelchair, weighing less than 80 pounds with muscular dystrophy, if he and his doctors, who think cannabis is the only treatment for him, should be treated like criminals. Romney told him to take a synthetic, the man responses that it makes him extremely sick, and asks if he and his doctor should be arrested. At this point instead of answer, Romney ended up stating, “I don’t support medical marijuana. Bye.” He walked away chuckling a bit and refusing to answer as reporters ask him to answer, and instead Romney keeps walking away trying to get another question, but people wanted an answer. Would he have this less than 80 pound man arrested?
Ron Paul, who is running as a Libertarian candidate has also been trying to get the unlikely nomination of the Republican Party, but has still been attending their debates. He is the only candidate, with a decent amount of support, who is currently pro-cannabis legalization as well as in favor of most illegal drugs being decriminalized. Paul had his start in the Republican Party and was a major supporter of almost all of Ronald Reagan’s moves as president—acts that negatively gave corporations and banks free reign to control the wealth in the U.S. and harshly punish drug users.
Paul sticks mostly to the Constitution which can be a good thing, but more often than not it made him the No man in Congress; if he felt there was no precedence in the Constitution, denying anything but his own reading, he would just vote no. Many feel the only good thing he might do is push legalization because he tends to do what he says when he is in office.
Everything is coming into play for this year’s elections. This is a great thing for cannabis supporters, given these polar opposites will attract voters that will help change this nation. Cannabis voters have to be making informed choices, having to show that cannabis is important but not the only thing to fight for in our country. If Obama picks up medical cannabis or legalization he will have a sure fire victory among voters across the states. But he has to start it soon, if not now. Romney is just a no, he cares about money from big business fueling his pockets – he might want to put people back to work, but as close to slaves as possible. Paul looks good on some papers, but once they get to burning, his buzz has a lot of potential negative impact if taken too far. Who will win the cannabis vote? Will it lead to a landslide of relaxation for the positive cannabis community? Only the vote can tell.