A lifelong Republican, Ann Lee recognizes that the basic principles of the Republican Party—smaller government, fiscal responsibility and individual accountability—are simply not in line with the outdated conservative views on cannabis legalization.
Lee was raised in the small Louisiana community of Ponchatoula, located about an hour’s drive north of New Orleans. She recalls the racial segregation she experienced as a child growing up in the Jim Crow South, and how uneasy she felt about how fellow Christians spoke against racial prejudice while. Looking back, Lee finds it difficult to believe she—and those around her—tolerated it. At 17 Lee left Louisiana for Texas, where she studied political science at the University of Texas at Austin. It was here that she met her husband, Bob, a business major and fellow Republican, and the two would later co-found Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP).
In 1990, a catastrophic accident left Lee’s 28-year-old son Richard paraplegic. Through research, Richard learned about cannabis’ potential use as a treatment for his excruciating nerve pain. Up until that point, Lee used to think of cannabis as a risky “gateway drug,” however, she now acknowledges the very clear medical advantage that cannabis provided her son. As a result of their belief in Richard and extensive investigation, the Lees began to question the legitimacy of why cannabis was still outlawed and eventually came to the opinion that the plant was an effective medication and should be legalized.
Those in the know may already be familiar with the name Richard Lee, and for a good reason. After relocating to Oakland in 1997, Richard established the renowned Oaksterdam University a decade years later, which today provides cannabis classes and expert training for careers in the legal industry.
On their journey to founding RAMP, Lee and her husband became members of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. The Lees formed RAMP in October 2012 to work within the GOP to inform and interact with lawmakers, party leadership and grassroots activists. The organization’s message is centered on the conservative values of individual liberty, fiscal restraint and limited government. These fundamental Republican principles, according to RAMP, have been seriously damaged by governmental actions that make cannabis use by responsible adults illegal.
Lee’s political motivations extend beyond her family’s personal medical marijuana experience. As an elder stateswoman, she embraces her insider status to fight for legalization and against what she refers to as America’s racist drug policy.
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.