Marijuana and the Colorado GOP

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Paul Danish/Sue France

I spent last Saturday at the Republican State Convention in Colorado Springs where three things that involved marijuana made news, although only one of them actually got reported.
The one that got reported involved Senator Ted Cruz, who was interviewed by the Denver Post shortly before he spoke to the convention.

He told the paper that he thought the question of the legalization of marijuana should be left to the states, and that if elected president he would not interfere with Colorado’s legalization of marijuana.

“I think on the question of marijuana legalization, we should leave it to the states,” Cruz said. “If it were me personally, voting on it in the state of Texas, I would vote against it.

“The people of Colorado have made a different decision. I respect that decision,” he continued. “And actually, it is an opportunity for the rest of the country to see what happens here in Colorado, what happens in Washington state, see the states implement the policies, and if it works well, other states may choose to follow. If it doesn’t work well, other states may choose not to follow.”
He also said the Constitution allows “states to experiment.”

There’s actually a bit more here than meets the eye.

Obama has treated his decision not to interfere with the decisions of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska to legalize pot as a routine exercise of his executive power, prompting some to wonder if the policy will last beyond his administration.

Cruz says it will if he’s president. Moreover, Cruz is laying an ideological and constitutional foundation for not coming down on the legalizing states — states’ rights — and one that should resonate among fellow Republicans at that.

The only presidential candidate with a stronger pro-legalization position is Bernie Sanders, who is on record as wanting to “delist” marijuana — remove it entirely — from the Controlled Substances Act’s list of forbidden drugs. Unfortunately, the Post’s reporter didn’t ask Cruz what he thought of that.

The second newsworthy thing that happened at the convention involved Jerry Eller, a disabled vet from Pueblo who was one of eight candidates who was seeking to get his name on the state’s senatorial primary ballot by getting the support of 30 percent of the convention delegates.

If I understand his position correctly, Eller isn’t calling for the re-criminalization of pot, but he says he’s sick of the “ridiculous” proliferation of marijuana stores “with their funky names” in Pueblo West and thinks Amendment 64 was “way too loosey-goosey.” He’d ban smokable pot on the medical side because smoking is unhealthy, and while he would allow sales of both medical and recreational marijuana, he’d ban all advertising, including signage on both medical and recreational stores.

Commercial grows would be regulated by “the Department of Agriculture, HHS, FDA, ATF, DEA, FBI, CIA and or local police and sheriffs…”

I get the impression that his real beef is with in-your-face signage on pot stores. Essentially he’s willing to (grudgingly) accept legal marijuana as long as it isn’t seen, heard or smelled in public.

However he didn’t get very far when he tried to explain the nuances of his position during his allotted 10 minute speech to the convention. When he said he wanted to ban medical pot shops with funky names, he was interrupted by a chorus of boos, which in turn elicited some cheering. Most of the delegates just sat in silence. Eller realized he was getting nowhere and moved on ­— leaving the impression that he favored Chris Christie style re-criminalization.

“Eller got only 30 votes — out of 3,796 cast.”
But the important point is that the only Republican Senate candidate who wanted to come down hard on legal pot encountered noisy pushback on the convention floor and bombed with the issue.

That brings us to the third newsworthy thing to come out of the Republican convention involving marijuana: the state party’s 2016 platform. The word “marijuana” didn’t appear in it.

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