Prominent Republicans Support Legalizing Marijuana
October 7, 2012

Prominent Republicans In Washington State And Colorado Support Legalizing Marijuana

April Flowers for — Your Universe Online

Although 17 states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana for medical use, no state has ever legalized it for recreational use. Washington State and Colorado have upcoming ballot measures to do just that. Those measures gained support from two prominent Republican politicians this week — U.S. Senate candidate Michael Baumgartner and former Representative Tom Tancredo — which could help sway voters.

Michael Baumgartner is currently a state senator and the Republican challenger to Washington state's Democratic Senate incumbent, Maria Cantwell, who opposes the legislation. Baumgartner called the state initiative, which would allow the sale of marijuana to people 21 and older at state-sanctioned stores, "a thoughtful way forward."

"It checks a lot of boxes we want to see, in terms of children not being exposed, in terms of not increasing marijuana usage and not allowing it in public spaces," Baumgartner said. "It's taking a different approach to a very expensive drug war, and potentially a better approach."

The campaign for legalization in Washington has quite a bit of momentum, with more than $1 million dollars in new contributions just last week. Initiative 502's supporters have raised nearly $4.1 million so far, with $1.2 million left to spend.

Cantwell, when asked for her position, issued the following statement: "While I remain a strong supporter of our state's medicinal marijuana laws, I don't believe it should be legalized for recreational purposes based on concerns expressed by law enforcement and the current drafting of the initiative," she said. "Whatever the result, I will honor the will of the voters' decision in November."

If it passes, I-502 is projected to bring in millions in tax revenues each year. The initiative legalizes up to one ounce for personal use for those over 21. It would also license growers, processors and retail stores, with a 25% tax at each stage. The law also sets a blood-test limit for driving under the influence and prohibits public use of the drug.

Tom Tancredo served five terms in the House of Representatives, from 1999 to 2009. This week, he endorsed the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, arguing that government should not interfere with people's choice to use pot.

No big named Republican supporters have been found in Oregon, the third state that will vote on recreational marijuana use this November.

Kevin Sabet is a former advisor to the Obama administration's drug policy director and a legalization opponent. Sabet disputes the argument that government should not interfere.

"The libertarian argument is fundamentally flawed because drug use does not affect just the individual, it affects healthcare costs, criminal justice costs that we see with a legal drug like alcohol and costs to our highway safety," Sabet said.

A Gallup poll last year showed that popular support for recreational use of marijuana is up, with 50% of Americans supporting the idea and only 46% opposed.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, so the question remains whether the Justice Department will sue to block the new laws from taking effect should they pass. The DOJ could also seize any tax revenue as proceeds of illicit drug transactions.