Thursday, February 1, 2024

GOP Can Keep Winning.

August 31, 2017 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( I’m no saint, nor have I ever professed to be. There are too many people currently living who could give testimony to the contrary should I ever decide to, so I won’t here. With that out of the way (it’ll make more sense later in the piece), there is an area on the issue of this country’s drug laws where Republicans could both do the right thing and win some support.

Let’s be honest: there isn’t much to vote for in the in 2018 midterm elections.

For Democrats it’s all about not being Donald Trump. They aren’t offering up much, just that they won’t be Trump. No one would have suspected them of being remotely Trump, so this isn’t exactly an inspiring message. It’s kind of like running on ensuring the sun will continue to rise in the east every morning. Yeah, sure, but that was always going to happen.

For congressional Republicans, it’s also about not being Donald Trump, though to a lesser degree. Having watched these clowns fumble their 7-year promise to repeal Obamacare and cower in fear of the liberal media, no thinking person was going to confuse them with the president in the first place, so they need a little more than not being Trump to run on next year.

Since big-ticket items appear to be off the list of possibilities, that leaves smaller, but more personal accomplishments available to validate them retaining their jobs.

Luckily for Republicans there are a number of principled stances they could take, and pass legislation on, that would help them make the case that, until they reach some sort of miraculous consensus on, they deserve reelection.

I’ve been writing about them lately, and will continue to do so, because smaller but important accomplishments are at least steps in the right direction.

One of those “baby steps” that the GOP could move on is medical marijuana.

I’m not a huge fan of legalizing pot for fun. I’d be happy to have that conversation once they develop a reliable test to see if someone driving a car is high at that moment or was just high the night before. Only the former should be a serious crime.

I also think if you’re going to smoke pot for recreation in your wayward youth (remember the opening paragraph), you should be required to think about the consequences of that action and the possible ramifications of that choice. (Plus, why should younger generations have it any easier than I did? Just kidding…mostly.)

That said, when it comes to people who are seriously ill, all bets are off. Companies should be free to research the benefits of marijuana without fear of the feds shutting them down, and sick individuals should be able to manage their disease in whatever way makes their lives better.

Moreover, the idea of medical marijuana should be a state issue. States should be free to choose if they want to allow it. The closer the level of government is to the people the more responsive it is to the people.

Republicans always talk about getting the federal government out of the way of innovation, well here’s one area where they could do that. It really is an issue of federalism – the states should be free to decide if they want to legalize medical marijuana.

And I’m not talking about the loose-y-goose-y situation California created for itself, where every 18-year-old college student suddenly comes down with glaucoma or anxiety, I’m talking about seriously ill people who need help managing their pain or with their appetite.

It’s easy to dismiss the idea, to say there are no benefits at all, but that ignores the first-person testimonials from suffering individuals to the contrary.

This could be a win for Republicans because it A) is a popular idea, and B) because it’s an easy way to reintroduce the idea of federalism to a population that isn’t taught it in schools anymore. We are not a nation with states, we are a nation OF states, and those states are supposed to have the freedom to act in their best interests, even when other states choose to act differently.

Most Americans don’t understand this. They’re used to a federal government dictating what can’t be done from Washington, allowing states to only tinker with the edges. Something as high profile, popular and, in the grand scheme of things, insignificant as allowing states to decide how to proceed on medical marijuana would get positive attention and get people thinking about what else should their state be allowed to do.

The current debate is being played out in the appropriations process with 29 states and DC having medical marijuana laws and relying on the federal government not going after them. Since 2014, Congress has blocked prosecution of states allowing medical marijuana by the Department of Justice. The Senate voice voted an amendment by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and is pushing for the House to do the same.

The end of year appropriations bills are likely to determine the fate of medical marijuana prosecutions and whether a new war on drugs is fought by Attorney General Jeff Sessions against states allowing it.

As you might imagine, this idea isn’t wildly popular among some Republicans, but it is firmly rooted in the Constitution.

The 10th Amendment reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That concept that states have rights and the federal government’s power is limited by our charter document has been ignored by Democrats and the federal government for decades, mostly because feckless Republicans are awful at explaining it as a concept or they don’t really believe it. This gives them a chance to allow people to see it in action, and us a chance to see which GOP members don’t really believe in it. It’s a win-win.

Republicans tried to “free the states” approach with Obamacare, but health insurance is a different creature altogether. People are confused by it, afraid of it, and would prefer someone else make that decision for them. On medical marijuana, it’s a no-brainer. It has wide popular support and even President Donald Trump, himself a teetotaler, spoke out forcefully in support of it on the campaign trail.

And you never know, once people try a little federalism strange things could happen. They might like it, and they might get other ideas. It could, dare I say, be a gateway concept.

Columnist; Derek Hunter

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