This 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)