Cannabis legalization has reached record-high support, and for the first time in history, that includes a majority of Republicans. In October 2016, only 42 percent of Republicans approved of legal cannabis. In just one year, that number has jumped by 9 percentage points to 51 percent of Republicans in favor of regulation today.
States Paving the Way to Legalization
This statistic may seem surprising. Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently reversed Obama-era guidance meant to discourage federal prosecutors from interfering with state-regulated cannabis operations. Under Sessions’ leadership, it is perfectly acceptable and preferable that prosecutors take down the state-legalized cannabis industry.
The state-led movement away from prohibition toward regulation has shown the world that cannabis consumption is more than just a recreational outlet—it’s a path to wellness for many patients, and it also puts economic growth on steroids.
Medical research shows that cannabis’ efficacy in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, MS, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, nausea, and more has improved and saved lives that conventional drug therapies could not. Financially, market analysts predict that the legal industry will be worth $40 billion by 2021.
This data has empowered members of a party known for its staunch conservatism to publicly state their support of the legal cannabis industry. Here are seven Republican public servants who have done just that.
Senator Cory Gardner (Colorado)
Though this usually easy-tempered senator initially opposed his state’s cannabis legalization, he has since become a fierce advocate of his state’s choice to regulate cannabis. To Gardner, it is less about weed and more about the protection of state rights. When Attorney General Jeff Sessions released the memo rescinding Obama’s protections, Gardner took to the Senate floor and delivered a scathing criticism of the AG’s action, calling it “a trampling of Colorado’s rights, its voters.”
Senator Dean Heller (Nevada)
Back in 2015, Senator Heller announced that he was cosponsoring a bill that would have given states the federally backed right to medical cannabis regulation stating that “the time has come for the federal government to stop impeding the doctor-patient relationship in states that have decided their own medical marijuana policies.” The bill never got anywhere, but Heller remains an advocate of state autonomy.
House Representative Matt Gaetz (Florida)
We’ll just let the Representative speak for himself. In response to Session’s memo, Gaetz released the following statement:
“This cruel plan is repugnant to the Tenth Amendment and harms some of our most vulnerable fellow Americans. In my district and nationwide, children have been helped by medical marijuana when all other treatments have failed. Some have gone from surgeries and seizures to baseball games and homecoming dances.
“Veterans have ditched the ‘combat cocktail’ for soothing medical marijuana treatments and rejuvenated lives. (Attorney General) Sessions’ policy would make sick children sicker. It would oppose the will of 81 percent of veterans, according to the American Legion. It will place the government between vulnerable people and something that could help them.”
“This decision even flies in the face of President Trump, who expressed support for medical marijuana and state-level decision-making during his campaign, and stated on July 29, 2016 that ‘I think it should be up to the states.’ While prosecution of bad actors is always welcome, it would be heartless to systemically use the awesome power of the federal government to punish people providing legitimate medicine.”
House Representative Thomas Garrett (Virginia)
In February 2017, Representative Garret introduced the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017.” The bill would have removed cannabis from the drug schedule. In an incredibly woke statement, the representative said, “I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status.” The bipartisan bill currently has 32 cosponsors. Given the record-high support for cannabis legalization among Republicans, and the backlash Sessions received in response to his crackdown on legal cannabis, it looks like the bill has a very good chance of passing.
Senator Dana Rohrabacher (California)
As co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Senator Rohrabacher has been an advocate of medical cannabis for some time. In September 2017, he and Democratic Senator Earl Blumenauer of Oregon were blocked by the House from passing an amendment that would have prevented the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws. Given AG Sessions memo, it seems like Rohrabacher knew that the threat of such interference was one to be seriously reckoned with. In a devastating statement, Senator Rohrabacher made his disproval of Sessions’ move painfully clear:
“The attorney general of the United States has just delivered an extravagant holiday gift to the drug cartels. By attacking the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly favor marijuana legalization, Jeff Sessions has shown a preference for allowing all commerce in marijuana to take place in the black market, which will inevitably bring the spike in violence he mistakenly attributes to marijuana itself.”
Governor Charlie Baker (Massachusetts)
Governor Baker did not initially support cannabis legalization, but a changed perspective was made clear in his response to Sessions’ decision to pursue cannabis prohibition. The governor reminded the Massachusetts attorney general that “the big public health crisis we’re dealing with in the Commonwealth these days is opioid addiction and street drugs like fentanyl. A big message to the US attorney’s office should be, if you have limited resources, let’s focus on the thing that is killing people every day here in the Commonwealth.” He continued to laud cannabis as “proven to be an effective way to deal with nausea, anxiety, pain, and a variety of other issues.”
Governor Brian Sandoval (Nevada)
Nevada’s governor opposed cannabis legalization, but he accepted the will of the voters and has since adopted a much more accepting attitude toward cannabis regulation. It doesn’t hurt that recreational sales in Nevada reached $27 million in their first month, and that kind of income translates into a lot of cannabis-generated tax revenue. Governor Sandoval doesn’t seem too fazed by Sessions’ attacks on cannabis and expressed his desire to see his state formally announce its intentions not to follow Sessions’ guidance. “I know that the U.S. attorney in Colorado has already said that he is not going to enforce federal law against the legalized marijuana industry in that state. I would like to see something similar here in Nevada, but that’s a discussion that needs to be had,” the governor said.