Could the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket be better for medical marijuana in Colorado than the Obama administration? That depends on who you ask -- and when you ask it. Last Friday, Republican veep candidate Ryan told a Colorado Springs TV station that MMJ and pot legalization are state's rights issues. But is that his final word?
"My personal positions on this issue have been to let the states decide what to do with these things," Ryan told KRDO anchor Eric Singer. "This is something that is not a high priority of ours as to whether or not we go down the road on this issue. But I've always believed that states should have the right to decide. I personally don't agree with it, but this is something Coloradans have to decide for themselves."
But it doesn't look like Ryan checked with his boss before making those statements. Back in May, CBS4's Shaun Boyd pitched the same question to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney , who promptly shot down the question. Here's that video.
"The economy, the economy, the economy. The growth of jobs. The need to put people back to work. The challenges of Iran. We've got enormous issues that we face, but you want to talk about -- go ahead -- you want to talk about marijuana?" Romney chided Boyd.
He went on to say: "I think marijuana should not be legal in this country. I believe it is 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 country."
And that, apparently, is still the official position of the Republican Party. Because on Saturday morning, a spokesman with the veep candidate's office clarified Ryan's statements, saying that he actually thinks marijuana shouldn't ever be legalized under any circumstances.
By then, though, Ryan's gaffe had already gotten some traction. For example, the SF Weekly, our sister paper in San Francisco, published a post calling his words worthless and desperate. As the Weekly points out, Ryan's voting record is much different than his words on Friday:
"Ryan's record would appear to belie his 'personal positions.' Ryan in May voted against a measure to 'let the states decide,' opposing fellow Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher's move to defund federal involvement in medical marijuana where the drug is legal."
The gaffe even made it to the national media on September 10, when MSNBC's Rachel Maddow discussed it on her program. "So the Republicans were for legalizing pot," she noted. "For about eighteen hours."
Pandering to the pro-pot people isn't just a Republican tactic. President Obama made similar statements four years ago, prompting the medical marijuana community to rally around him. But four years later, federal intervention continues to shut down state-legal MMJ centers in Colorado, as well as shops in California, Montana and Washington state. The president has since said that he would not be in favor of legalization.
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But that doesn't mean the Obama campaign has stopped trying for the pro-cannabis vote. Just last week, the Democrats released a video promoting the Democratic National Convention in which Obama called a munchie-eating Kal Penn and John Cho (best known as Harold and Kumar) in what is clearly a nod to the duo's stoner-movie past. Though cannabis is never mentioned, you'd have to be totally stoned to miss the implied connection.
So far, the only candidate to run a pro-pot policy is Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former New Mexico governor. As he told Westword's Sam Levin back in June: "There's a trend line on the issue. It's not going backwards. So how long is it going to take before it gets to 70 or 75 percent?.... People and how they deal with the stresses in their lives should be able to have a drink if that helps them out.... If they get that same thing from smoking pot, they ought to be able to smoke pot."