There are a plethora of suggestions — of varying degrees of helpfulness — as to how the Republican party can re-brand and re-orient itself; ranging from capitulating on taxes to deciding that gay marriage isn’t a hill to die on. But there’s one easy ideological maneuver that Republicans could make that would simultaneously burnish their stance as the party of freedom and expand their base while alienating the president from his. It is a move that might also make one swing state a little easier to win in 2016. Congressional Republicans and conservative leaders could get on the weed bandwagon.
Now, the John Boehners and Mitch McConnells of the world may never win the loyalty of the Choom Gang contingent. But Republicans should rejoice with those who rejoiced when voters in Colorado and Washington passed sensible marijuana policy. Last Tuesday, both states passed ballot measures decriminalizing the recreational use of medical marijuana — and giving the GOP an early Christmas present.
The White House is surprisingly uncool when it comes to toking up: A Reuters piece that Charles C. W. Cooke noted on the Corner last week reports that the victories are largely symbolic. Ken Sabet, former assistant to Obama’s drug czar, said that state leaders “are facing an uphill battle with implementing this, in the face of . . . presidential opposition and in the face of federal enforcement opposition.” In other words, the Obama administration cares more about maintaining the concentration of federal power than preventing thousands of bored college students from getting arrested for doing exactly what the president did when he was a bored college student.
For the GOP, this is more than just an opening; it’s a magical messaging moment, which, to paraphrase Rahm Emanuel, conservatives shouldn’t let go to waste. “This is a classic example of where they can walk the walk,” says Tim Lynch of the Cato Institute. This isn’t really a drug-legalization issue; it’s a states’ rights issue and a limited-powers issue. All conservatives have to agree on is that the federal government might have better things to do with its freshly printed money than try to enforce a nigh-unenforceable law that local voters and leaders think was a bad idea in the first place.
This is a case where India – India! – leads the US when it comes to personal liberty. In India, you can buy a cannabis candy from any corner shop for one Indian rupee, which is about 2 American cents. It’s a trip, in more ways than one: