The Los Angeles Times‘ Evan Halper documents what attendees at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C. also noted: namely, that there is a sharp rise among conservatives in enthusiasm for, and interest in, liberalizing marijuana laws. Conservative legislators are embracing a rising business constituency in marijana growers and dispensary owners, who are actively courting their interest.
Halper notes, for example, that some conservative lobbyists have found new careers as lobbyists for the marijuana industry. They have found a receptive audience with Republicans like Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who was recently fêted at a fundraiser by the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports a bill co-sponsored by Rohrabacher’s to prevent the federal government from attempting to override state laws on marijuana.
There is a distinctively California angle to the debate over marijuana. The state was among the first to legalize medical uses of marijuana–which are often abused, and which have sparked a backlash against proliferating dispensaries even in liberal cities. Now, as states like Colorado outpace California–and the rest of the world–in legalizing the drug, California’s legislators debate whether the state should try to regain the reformist lead.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, opposes the legalization of marijuana, recently asking: “How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” His state party, however, has made full legalization a plank in the party platform for the 2014 elections. Republican contender Neel Kashkari opposes legalization, as does Tea Party-backed state Rep. Tim Donnelly, though he has recently agreed with reforms in drug sentencing.