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Smoke signals: Ryan’s medical marijuana stance may boost GOP in Colorado

Sept. 8, 2012

Opening up a line of attack in an area where President Obama is extremely vulnerable, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan told Colorado Springs TV station KRDO that he believes states where medical marijuana laws have passed should not be targeted by the federal government.

Ryan and KRDO’s Eric Singer had the following exchange in an interview aired Friday:

Singer: "In Colorado we have medical marijuana. Under a Romney-Ryan ticket, what happens?"

Ryan: "It's up to Coloradans to decide."

Singer: "So even if federal law says marijuana is illegal, you're saying?"

Ryan: "My personal positions on this issue have been let the states decide what to do with these things. This is something that is not a high priority of ours as to whether or not we go down the road on this issue. What I've always believed is the states should decide. I personally don't agree with it, but this is something Coloradans have to decide for themselves."

To see the full interview on KRDO, click here.

National polls consistently show more than 70 percent support for medical marijuana. Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use.

In the crucial swing state of Colorado, where polls on Prop. 64 show voters poised to legalize marijuana for recreational use as well, Ryan’s words change the dynamic and put the Obama campaign on the defensive because of the administration’s poor record in defending the rights of medical marijuana patients.

Former New Mexico governor and 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, polling at percent in 5 percent in Colorado and taking more votes there from Obama than from Romney, supports legalizing marijuana (also referred to as cannabis) for both medical and recreational use. In response to a Punditty Project question in late 2011, Johnson stated he would issue an executive order reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug as well issuing a full pardon for all non-violent marijuana offenders now serving time in federal prisons.

Recent polls by Gallup and Rasmussen show 50 percent or more of Americans support for legalizing marijuana recreationally as well.

Obama’s actions do not match his rhetoric

In 2008, then-candidate Obama said more or less the same thing as Ryan did on Friday, even promising through a spokesman to end the federal raids on medical marijuana clinics.

After Obama’s election, Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2009 that “It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal.”

The problem with Holder’s approach is twofold: Medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and by continuing to target dispensaries, it forces patients who do not grow their own medication into a black market that existed long before states began legalizing medical cannabis. It is akin to saying that patients can use a certain type of medicine, but only if they don’t get it from a pharmacy.

Ryan’s words may spark change in classification of cannabis

By drawing attention to the Obama administration's say-one-thing-do-another history on medical marijuana, Ryan may have tapped into a voting bloc that the Obama camp has been taking for granted.

It remains to be seen if GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will address the medical marijuana issue, but if Romney expresses his support for reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule II drug rather than keeping it as Schedule I, the Republicans could win over large numbers of voters who are tired of being considered criminals for doing nothing more than relieving their pain.

If Ryan’s words lead to Romney moving ahead in Colorado polling, look for the GOP candidate to express support for rescheduling cannabis as a means of boosting his support both in Colorado and nationally.

In a close election, that wise and compassionate move could be enough for Romney to prevail over Obama. Regardless of who wins in November, reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule II drug would end the federal-state battle over medical marijuana and be a much more cost-effective means of combating serious drug traffickers than wasting federal resources on raids that do little more than deny sick people their medicine.

If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.

SOURCES & RESOURCES:

GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan with answers, KRDO.com, Sept. 7, 2012

Medical Marijuana Activists Add to Attorney General Eric Holder's List of Woes, SF Weekly, June 2012

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2012/09/08/paul_ryan_says_medical_marijuana_legalization_is_up_to_states.html

AIDS victims bitter over government’s decision on pot, The Argus-Press (Owosso, Mich.), March 10, 1992

Additional sources linked to within text.

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