Ron Paul Won't Legalize Marijuana -- Because He Can't
|A nice idea, but...|
During his 30 years in the House of Representatives, Paul has authored and co-authored multiple marijuana-friendly bills. He's proposed laws to decriminalize marijuana, permit industrial hemp farming, and constitutionally delegate to states how to enforce extant medical marijuana.
None of these bills have ever been heard in committee. Nonetheless, Paul's drug war bona fides are earning him admirers among liberals who note that Paul is the only candidate to remotely approach the two points necessary to end the Drug War: Repealing, or at least amending, the Controlled Substances Act, and a rescheduling of marijuana within the DEA's pantheon of forbidden fruits.
A growing number of marijuana activists are embracing Paul as a pot-friendly alternative to President Barack Obama, whose Justice Department has done more to dismantle state-legal medical marijuana than George W. Bush's crew ever did.
These supporters ignore a key point: If Paul were president, he wouldn't be any better for legalizing marijuana than President Obama -- or worse than Romney or Santorum. And as recently as Monday's debate in South Carolina, Paul had this to say about ending the Drug War: "I don't think we can do a whole lot about it."
Marijuana was criminalized by the feds in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed by Congress (under pressure from Richard M. Nixon's administration). Only Congress can repeal an act of Congress, just as only Congress can amend the Constitution, raise taxes, and wage war (legally).
The federally subsidized war on marijuana can end if the CSA remains, as long as marijuana is dropped from Schedule I, the list of the most dangerous drugs, to Schedule II (which includes cocaine) or lower. Through the CSA, the general public can directly petition the Attorney General to do this. Theoretically, the president could issue an executive order unilaterally urging the Attorney General to do this, but to do so would be "an extension of executive power," according to Robert Smith, a professor of political science at San Francisco State University.
Earlier this month, Stephen DeAngelo, the founder and CEO of Oakland's Harborside Health Center -- the nation's largest cannabis dispensary and the subject of the Discovery Channel documentary series Weed Wars -- made noise of his own when he suggested to the Huffington Post that pot activists should vote Republican. "We are single-issue voters," said DeAngelo, whose comments were followed by the Justice Department's extension into Colorado of the crackdown on state-legal medical cannabis that's been ongoing in California since September. Surely a Republican cannot be worse?
DeAngelo isn't supporting Paul or any other Republican, or at least not yet, he told us during a recent interview with SF Weekly. "Millions of us are looking for the right place to put our vote," DeAngelo said. While other marijuana activists like South Lake Tahoe-based Steve Kubby, author of one of the marijuana legalization voter initiatives vying for a spot on Californians' November 2012 ballots, have thrown their weight behind Paul, DeAngelo says he'd prefer to back Obama as he did in 2008. "I'm waiting and hoping that he does the right thing and comes to our defense," he said. "I'm not going to vote for someone who thinks I'm a criminal and should be in prison."