But when it comes to reforming cannabis laws, support is growing on both sides of the aisle. One of the clearest anti-prohibition voices in the GOP is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). He co-authored the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prohibits federal law enforcement from interfering with medicinal cannabis operations that are legal under state law.
The impact has been huge; initially the DEA tried to work around the amendment, but an appellate court ruling clarified and confirmed its legal protections for medicinal cannabis providers, effectively bankrupting federal enforcement efforts.
Rep. Rohrabacher will join Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and former U.S. surgeon general Dr. Joyceln Elders in speaking at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, California, where the fragmented movement to put a legalization initiative on this year’s ballot will be a burning topic of both public and panel discussion. Like many Californians, he isn’t certain which proposed initiative represents the best approach to legalization, but says his support for broader legalization is a matter of constitutional principle.
“I’m committed to a higher level of liberty and freedom as I believe was envisioned by the people who founded this country,” he said. “Putting someone in jail for smoking a weed… whether it is harmless or harmful, as long as that person is an adult, they have the right to control their own life.”
Rohrabacher acknowledges that not all conservatives are enthusiastic about legal cannabis and that there is still much progress to be made when it comes to convincing those members of the GOP. However, he believes he’s making headway with fellow Republicans who share his “freedom philosophy,” and he thinks he’s softening the opposition of even conservative critics of legalization by appealing not only to constitutional values but a sense of fiscal responsibility.
“I am deeply interested in trying to cut down on this stupid waste that we have where so much money is being used to protect people from themselves, but then all we’re doing is sending money to the drug cartels across the border,” he said. “We have limited resources and now we’re going to spend it on trying to prevent somebody form smoking a weed rather than spend it preventing criminals from hurting us and hurting our families.”
Although Rohrabacher’s focus as a congressman to Washington D.C. is on national and international issues, he says he’s hopeful broad legalization will discourage local jurisdictions in California from spending public money on cannabis prohibition.
“It’s a waste of money,” he said. “Local governments don’t have money to throw away, especially money for counterproductive to initiate aggression against people who just want to be left alone.”
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