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Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition


texas marijuanaThis weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, the 2nd Annual Texas Regional NORML Conference was held.  Also in Fort Worth this weekend, just a few blocks away, was the Texas Republican Convention.  You couldn’t find two more diametrically opposed groups… right?

Ann Lee is precisely what American history and movies taught me a grand Texas lady would be.  She’s strong and willful yet polite and humble.  She’s a conservative Christian woman and now in her eighties, she has become a marijuana legalization activist!  And she’ll tell you it is precisely because she is a conservative Christian.Wrong.  Let me tell you about Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, or RAMP.  Two years ago, I met Ann Lee, the mother of one of my heroes, Richard Lee.

Mr. Lee is the man who started Oaksterdam University and spent $1.5 million of his money – a large portion of everything he’d ever earned – placing California’s Prop 19 on the ballot in 2010.  While his attempt to legalize marijuana lost, it put statewide legalization on the political map and started the discussions that led to successful legalization initiatives in Washington and Colorado.

Two years ago I was with Mrs. Lee at an event where I heard her talking about why Republicans should endorse marijuana legalization.  They are familiar arguments to me; William F. Buckley made some of the same arguments a generation ago to his conservative readers.  But then I heard her go further than Mr. Buckley ever had by suggestion conservatives do something about it.  ”I’m going to start RAMP,” she said, “Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition.”

Fast forward to this weekend in Fort Worth and RAMP is a real entity, credentialed for the GOP Convention and the NORML Conference.  Mrs. Lee’s vision attracted like-minded conservatives, including a young man named Jason Miller, who spoke to me at length about the politics of marijuana at the Texas GOP.  ”The temporary platform committee actually had included supoprt for medical marijuana,” Mr. Miller said, “it was a tie vote that was broken by the chair.”  The medical marijuana language was eventually removed, but even discussing the issue and getting a convention body to pass it was a definite milestone.

There are some identifiable pockets of support for marijuana legalization within the GOP tent.  The small-l libertarian wing, the economic conservatives, even some of the Tea Party aren’t fond of marijuana prohibition and can see the fiscal arguments for legalization.  But Mrs. Lee sees the larger pools of Christian conservatives and pro-life adherents as potential supporters of marijuana reform.  ”Pro-life has got to mean something more than just stopping an abortion,” Mrs. Lee told the marijuana conference, explaining that pro-life Christians who fight for the child to be born cannot then deny that child a God-given plant that could stop its seizures.

However, Mrs. Lee doesn’t shy away from calling on the GOP to support regulation of recreational marijuana.  ”Even if you think [marijuana]is the worst thing in the world, you know there’s got to be a better way of dealing with it than this.”  Mrs. Lee then cites a litany of conservative principles including personal responsibility, limited government, cutting wasteful spending, and states’ rights as being perfectly aligned with the move to legalize marijuana.  I couldn’t agree more, and considering the GOP’s need for younger voters, it could be a party-saving maneuver.

Source: International Cannabis Business Conference (This article originally appeared on June 11th)


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. jetdoc — nice “diatribe” and certainly one that hits home for many who wish to separate the wheat from the chaff. As I stated earlier in this post, the Republican front is leaning more towards legalization than it ever has. This issue is becoming more of a “common sense” issue than it is a liberal vs. conservative issue.
    You are to be commended for not playing the bandwagon card by going against your constitution of what is right, and just go along with the “club members”; taking the easy road. You can truly be a leader in many ways in assisting in this legalization movement that has swept the country. Kudos to your loyalty to what you feel is right.
    I wish you good fortune and success in your efforts to facilitate and educate your peers or anyone that wishes to see an objective view on this issue, for it should not be a Republican vs. Democratic polarized issue —- it should be a concerted effort by all who feel that this issue needs to be resolved AND the majority should be heard — and action taken on their will to have cannabis legalized.
    Ilion, NY

  2. If greed is the avenue to get this issue behind us and have it legalized, then so be it. I don’t think that most people, even if they disagree with the means to the end or the agenda, could care less HOW or WHY it gets legalized —- JUST GET IT DONE.

  3. I think that there will be growing support from the Republican side of this cannabis issue of legalization —- after all, they always lead the charge for a reduction in government spending/waste, and we ALL know how much taxpayer money has been wasted due to this prohibition of cannabis.

    Actually, I am quite surprised that there isn’t more Republican support for legalization, but as stated above, that support is growing. It’s too bad that the binary partisan parties cannot get together on what most people see as an issue that should not be an issue. Get it rescheduled, get it legalized, stop the mad spending on all the current legal costs involved in arrests, trials and convictions and move forward with allowing people to have the freedom of choice as to whether they want to use (AND cultivate). The more that cannabis becomes a “homegrown” way of life, the less presence there will be foreign enterprise i.e. cartels and illegal alien activity.

    We all should realize that this issue has been a farce and a huge waste of money and unjust incarceration since 1937. The will of the people (and it IS a majority will in EVERY state in the Union) should be honored, respected AND implemented by the representatives that we chose to, well, represent us.

    Ilion, NY

  4. Lo Bar:

    Please learn some manners, it will improve your disposition and make it easier to converse with folks that are not clones of your political belief system. And by the way, Democrats are notorious drug warriors, and so are Republicans. Two sides of the same coin.

  5. Yes I read, yes I understand where ur coming from too,,,i’m just TIRED of hearing, reading, seeing and most of all ‘feeling’ the crap that comes from them, (gop). Peaceful arguing gets u NO WHERE,,,i am just tired of ‘walking the line’,,,if u cannot handle my ‘attacks’,,well tough shit!! thx!!!

  6. You obviously didn’t read the article. I don’t mind discussion but PARTISAN attacks don’t get us any further along in the movement. You obviously haven’t seen the latest polls that show 49% of Republicans support some form of legalization. 41% support TOTAL legalization. Those numbers don’t change much when you’re talking about Democrats either. They’re VERY close to the same. Therefore it’s NOT a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s an issue about Health and Human rights. That transverses partisan politics. We’ve got to overcome the SHIT that’s been piled on the American public over the past 70 yrs. and quit fighting amongst ourselves. Isn’t this an issue that we ALL could come together on instead of BLINDLY blaming prohibition on ANY ONE group? Let alone just the GOP. There’s just as many Democrats that oppose legalization as Republicans, so IMHO the argument doesn’t hold water.

  7. Jetdoc:

    Chronic pain is debilitating. May I suggest an experienced licensed acupuncturist (not an MD or Chiropractor), who has good success with pain relief. In the hands of a skilled professional, this Chinese art can work wonders.

  8. As Mrs Lee said,,Considering the gop’s need for young voters, this would only be another maneuver to get the vote and control what they perceive to be $$ in their greedy pockets. Caring for the many people who need this plant to ‘live’ and or to maintain an everyday life,,goes way over their heads.

  9. Thanks Russ for the article. This one really hit home with me. I happen to be a Republican that opposes marijuana prohibition as well. I’ve never really understood even when I was young WHY people were so up in arms over marijuana. Sure I smoked it when I was a kid but then had to grow up and get a JOB! I went to work in the Oil Field which was very safety sensitive so I abstained from using it for those purposes.

    After several years in the Oil Field, I joined the military. You know how THEY feel about it and they piss tested us ALL the time, so I abstained. Then I went to work in the Airline Industry as an Aircraft Mechanic (A&P), and was piss tested ALL the time again. Therefore I again abstained from it’s use.

    In 93 I feel out of a 737 (in the hangar) and subsequently had several (5) Back surgeries. I was off of work for 2 years before I was able to go back to doing my job again.

    During this time, in 96 Arizona put Medical Marijuana on the ballot. Even though I couldn’t use it, I voted for it. The AZ legislature sliced and diced the law until it was unworkable. So it went by the wayside. The thing that BLEW MY MIND was that I was NOT allowed to work on Aircraft if I’d used marijuana and would’ve LOST my job. Yet this whole time that I went back to work, my back still hurt so bad, that I was taking Vicodin and Soma to quell pain and just get through the day! Here comes the BOMB! As long as one had a Dr’s prescription for those meds, it was just FINE that we worked on Aircraft, but let me use Medical Marijuana (even on my own time) and I’d lose my job!

    DON’T MISCONSTRUE THIS THOUGH! I WOULD NEVER medicate to a point that I was loopy in any sense of the word. My standards ALWAYS were, Safety First! If I wouldn’t put my Mom on that Airplane, I wouldn’t risk YOURS!

    In 97, I reinjured my back and had to have another surgery. It was finally to the point where I really couldn’t perform the job anymore and ALL Workers Comp wanted to do was pump me full of more and more Morphine, to where I can honestly say there’s 4 years I have a vague recollection of. But there’s 8 more that I have absolutely ZERO recollection of. I couldn’t tell you what happened if I wanted to!

    It was 2010 when AZ passed Medical Marijuana for a THIRD time and the legislature had NO SAY in it this time! NONE! After going through what I had and losing EVERY ONE of my friends and my family wouldn’t have SHIT to do with me either, I was in BAD shape. In May of 2011, the Morphine caused my heart to STOP! At 50 yrs old I required a Pacemaker/Defibrillator to be installed in my chest. It was at THAT point when I decided things HAD to change and became ONE of 22 Arizonans who were issued a Medical Marijuana card the 1st day the program was in existence.

    Needless to say, it SAVED MY LIFE! I’ve been able to reduce my Medication intake by almost 80%. My wife and daughter BOTH say “… they’ve got their Husband/Father back.” My parents say “they’ve got their son back” as well.

    I’m heavily involved in the State GOP. Actually, I’m a Precinct Committeeman for them. EVERYBODY who knew me @ GOP meetings/events, said the changes in me were nothing short of REMARKABLE. Yet not ONE of them knew WHY I was doing so well. Well, I finally told them in late 2012 early 2013, and the looks on their faces were PRICELESS!

    For the past 2 years I’ve been working on the INSIDE of the party trying to change hearts and minds. I’ve gone over and over how Medical Marijuana at the VERY least is a TRULY Conservative value. I’ve pushed the fact that the majority of those who now use it, were probably being prescribed medications that were 10 times worse for them as marijuana. At every meeting, I’m what they now call “The GREEN Elephant” in the room. The district chair, LOVES the fact that I make the “old guard” squirm. Yes it’s been an uphill battle and one that I haven’t quite won yet, but it’s NOT for lack of trying! I’ve changed a few minds and gotten an understanding from others. However we’ve STILL got a long way to go.

    I attempted to start a Conservative organization supporting the legalization of marijuana here AZ. Many were interested, but NONE wanted to stick their necks out to help me. They were ALL for it till they had to put their name by it.

    That’s human nature though and something we’ve got to overcome. These Pot Politicians that are ADDICTED to the $$$ that the War on Drugs provides them. That and “Asset Forfeiture laws” keep them in business. I’ve ALREADY taken the time to join RAMP as well as sending them a donation. I’m thinking of starting a chapter of RAMP here in AZ.

    Sorry for the diatribe but this one really hit home with me.

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