It won’t be long now.
In late February, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told a gathering of fellow conservatives he supports the right of states to legalize weed if they want. If even Republicans support the right of states to enact reform, the battle is already won. Now it’s just a matter of tending to the injured.
“I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the laboratories of democracy,’” Cruz told the Conservative Political Action Conference. “If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.”
Cruz isn’t the first high-profile conservative to embrace the right of the states to legalize. Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said earlier this year that he would allow states to legalize if he were president.
Cruz completely changed his tune
But Paul already felt that way, and most people who pay attention to national politics knew it. Cruz, on the other hand, has made a 180-degree turn on the topic. A year ago he called on President Obama to crack down on states that allow marijuana under their laws. The drug is still illegal under federal law.
The federal government has issued a set of loosely official rules for states that legalize medical or recreational pot. The guidelines allow legal weed in these states as long as officials follow eight priorities, such as keeping weed away from kids.
In January 2014, Cruz told a conservative conference at the Texas Public Policy Foundation that people who want to legalize should bring their arguments to Congress, not state governments, since only Congress can change the 1970 law that bans cannabis.
“You can go to Congress,” he said. “You can get a conversation. You could get Democrats and Republicans who would say, ‘We ought to change our drug policy in some way,’ and you could have a real conversation. You could have hearings. You could look at the problem. You could discuss common sense changes that maybe should happen or shouldn’t happen. This president didn’t do that. He just said, ‘The laws say one thing. And mind you, these are criminal laws; these are laws that say if you do X, Y, and Z, you will go to prison. The president announced, ‘No, you won’t.’”
Republicans accepting inevitability of reform
Apparently even right-wing politicians are beginning to see the inevitable end of marijuana prohibition coming. Most of us got to this point a long time ago, but we should be glad conservatives are coming around on the issue.
The reason they’re doing it is simple: It’s a near certainty legalization will be a central issue in the 2016 election. And the American people have made it clear which side they’re on: They want it.
The issue will be especially critical in winning over young voters. Many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, have already indicated they’re cool with reform. If Republicans stay stuck in the mud – as many of them doubtless will – they will only hurt themselves in the end.