Marijuana, specifically medical cannabis, has been getting plenty of press lately. CNN recently aired Weed 3, the third installment in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s marijuana documentary series. In it, Gupta focused on the medical benefits of cannabis, specifically to treat veterans with PTSD. The show also covered the tremendous bureaucratic hurdles that prevent effective marijuana research.
The documentary, an objective and moderate survey of current marijuana research studies and the politics behind legal pot, has been viewed by millions, serving as a powerful educational tool. Gupta, known for his former opposition to medical cannabis, is now one of its most ardent supporters.
Progress Meets Republican Defiance
Despite educational documentaries like Weed 3, medical cannabis laws in 24 states, and a middle America that is waking to the reality of marijuana efficacy, powerful Luddites — typically in the form of Republican senators and governors — still wield power and influence. Within the past week, three prominent conservative politicians, all of whom are mulling the office of president, have gone public with their opposition to marijuana legalization at any level — medicinal or recreational.
Earlier this week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie said during an interview that, if president, he would enforce federal law in all states that currently permit medical or recreational use of cannabis. In other words, Christie would openly oppose the will of the voters in any state in the nation that went counter to federal law and legalized any type of cannabis use.
Rubio Echoes Christie
Adding to this conservative dialog is Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida who, like Christie, is rumored to be contemplating a presidential run in 2016. While being interviewed by radio host Hugh Hewitt, Rubio expressed his respect for states crafting their own laws, but ultimately said that federal law should trump the efforts of renegade states to legalize marijuana. Rubio told Hewitt during his interview:
“I think we need to enforce our federal laws. Now do states have a right to do what they want? They don’t agree with it, but they have their rights. But they don’t have a right to write federal policy as well….”
“I don’t believe we should be in the business of legalizing additional intoxicants in this country for the primary reason that when you legalize something, what you’re sending a message to young people is it can’t be that bad, because if it was that bad, it wouldn’t be legal.”
Kasich will Oppose ResponsibleOhio
Finally, another 2016 Republican presidential nominee hopeful, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, also spoke out on Hewitt’s show about his stance on marijuana legalization. Kasich said he is “totally opposed” to legalization, but also said he’s not sure that, as president, he would oppose states like Colorado and Washington that have imposed legalization that goes counter to federal law.
Kasich turns out to be the most moderate when it comes to cannabis legalization among these three possible Republican presidential candidates. While he said, if president, he wouldn’t interfere with states that choose to legalize, he did say that he is officially opposed to any legalization effort in his own state — a thinly veiled reference to ResponsibleOhio and its 2015 ballot initiative to legalize both recreational and medical cannabis in the Buckeye State.
Despite his prediction that, as president, he’d allow states like Colorado and Alaska to legalize cannabis within their own borders, Kasich compared the dangers of cannabis to heroin, proving his ignorance of medical efficacy issues. For those in Ohio who are excited about the prospects of legal medical and recreational cannabis, it should be remembered that Ohio’s efforts to legalize will be opposed not only by Kasich and most of the Ohio legislature, but also by a variety of conservative factions within government, business, and organized religion.