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Gingrich Would Execute Mexico Drug Cartel Leaders

Republican presidential nominee contender Newt Gingrich said Saturday he would favor the use of the death penalty against Mexican drug trafficking organization leaders. The comments came in an interview with Yahoo News in which the former Georgia congressman and Speaker of the House also called medical marijuana in California "a joke" and suggested he would try to make life miserable for US drug users as a means of driving down drug use rates.

GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich (wikimedia.org)
Gingrich is now a leading contender for the Republican nomination. According to Real Clear Politics, which averages all polls, Gingrich is in first place nationally with 23.8%, ahead of his closest contender, Mitt Romney, who has 21.3%.

"My general belief is that we ought to be much more aggressive about drug policy, and that we should recognize that the Mexican cartels are funded by Americans," Gingrich said.

When asked if he stood by his 1996 legislation that would have given the death penalty to drug smugglers, he replied in the affirmative.

"I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure," he said. "Look at the level of violence they've done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there's nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, 'These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American.' If you're serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we're going to have drugs in this country."

Gingrich suggested that Singapore, which imposes corporal punishment for minor offenses and the death penalty for drug offenses, was a role model. "Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that," Gingrich said. "They've been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country."

For Gingrich, being aggressive on drug policy also "means having steeper economic penalties and it means a willingness to do more drug testing."

He elaborated on what he had in mind in response to another question: "I think that we need to consider taking more explicit steps to make it expensive to be a drug user," he said. "It could be through testing before you get any kind of federal aid. Unemployment compensation, food stamps, you name it."

Gingrich said that he wasn't a fan of imprisoning drug users and instead suggested that they be subjected to forced drug treatment. "I think finding ways to sanction them and to give them medical help and to get them to detox is a more logical long-term policy," he said.

Regarding medical marijuana, Gingrich, said he would continue current federal policy "largely because of the confusing signal that steps towards legalization sends to harder drugs [sic]." He also rejected letting states set their own policies "because I think you guarantee that people will cross state lines if it becomes a state-by-state exemption."

He also threw in a gratuitous jab at California's medical marijuana law. "I think the California experience is that medical marijuana becomes a joke," he said. "It becomes marijuana for any use. You find local doctors who will prescribe it for anybody that walks in."

GOP contenders Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson have taken firm anti-prohibitionist stands on drug policy, but they are finding little support among voters for a party that claims to be for limited government and states' rights. Newt Gingrich's comments on drug policy are only the latest indication that for most Republicans, continuing to fight the war on drugs trumps other party principles.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

The 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference Meets in Los Angeles [FEATURE]

For three days last weekend, the towering Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was awash with drug reform activists running from presentation to presentation and chatting in hallway confabs while discussing myriad topics on the streets outside. It was the Drug Policy Alliance's 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, and it was the largest yet, with more than 1,200 people from around the country and the world in attendance.

conference plenary session (photo courtesy HCLU, drogireporter.hu/en)
Police officers from Brazil and the US (mainly members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) mingled with drug user activists from Latin America and Europe, college kids from Students for Sensible Drug Policy sat down with grizzled veteran activists, former drug war prisoners discussed issues with elected officials, Southeast Asian harm reductionists swapped stories with American social workers, East European AIDS workers talked shop with their counterparts from the US and Canada, Mexican poets shared panels with American city council members. And medical marijuana and pot legalization activists, especially from host state California, were everywhere.

In all, people from more than 30 countries and probably every state in the union, representing dozens of different drug reform, harm reduction, human rights, reproductive rights, and other groups flooded into Los Angeles to get the latest skinny on drug reform, drug legalization, and ending drug prohibition.

The reform conference is so large and the issues so complex and interconnected that for a single person to attend all the sessions would require an army of clones. Over the three-day conference, five or six fascinating panels went on simultaneously throughout the day, not to mention the mobile workshops (medical marijuana, Skid Row, juvenile justice) taking attendees on themed city tours, the open rooms where various groups maintained a continuous presence, the evening events, and, last but not least, the Thursday night "End the Drug War" rally in MacArthur Park that drew several thousand people.

Some highlights follow.

Republican Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson

In the conference's opening plenary session, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is struggling to gain traction in the Republican presidential nomination contest, found a friendly audience and threw it some red meat. Marijuana should be legalized and pot prisoners freed, he said to loud cheers and applause.

Johnson, who has been an advocate of drug legalization since his days as governor, said it was his stance on drug reform, rather than his record as governor or his advocacy of small government, that gets him noticed. "That's the marijuana guy," people always say when they see him, he said.

California NAACP president Alice Huffman (courtesy HCLU)
Politicians are behind the curve when it comes to drug reform, Johnson said. "Fifty percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana," he said. "But zero percent of the universe of politicians support this." Certainly not his Republican rivals, who look at the drug wars ravaging Mexico and compete to see who can sound tougher. "They all talk about border violence and adding guns to the equation instead of looking at the root of the problem, which is prohibition," he said.

The only other Republican presidential contender to take a firm line on ending the drug war is Texas Rep. Ron Paul. But Paul and Johnson together are only polling at about 10% of the Republican electorate, with Paul polling the majority of that. Johnson said he was concentrating on the New Hampshire primary, where he hopes a strong showing can keep his candidacy and his strong anti-drug war message alive.

[DRCNet Foundation and the Drug War Chronicle do not take positions on candidates. As a precaution, this article was produced by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network.]

Mexico's Symbol of Drug War Resistance Tells Us It's Our Fight, Too

Read our feature story on this here.

Whither Medical Marijuana?

In the context of renewed federal repression aimed at medical marijuana production and distribution, not just in California, but in medical marijuana states around the country, panels on the future of medical marijuana understandably generated great interest. A nationally-focused panel noted that the Justice Department has not explained itself and its apparent change of heart, nor has it given any indication whether the raids and other actions against medical marijuana will continue, stop, or escalate.

Meanwhile, a second, California-centric panel worried about medical marijuana's future in the Golden State and bruited about ideas about how best to preserve it.

"There is a historic backlash against medical marijuana, and that is a result of our success," said Don Duncan, Southern California leader for Americans for Safe Access. "We made a strategic decision to go to localities, but now is the time to go back to Sacramento because we could lose ground in the towns. It is time for the legislature to adopt statewide regulations to protect safe access," he said.

Mikki Norris and Chris Conrad at Thursday's rally and concert in Macarthur Park (courtesy HCLU)
"We need to authorize storefront distribution, protect cultivators, and protect the civil rights of patients," Duncan continued, citing housing discrimination, employment problems, and custody issues.

But it's going to be a tough battle in Sacramento, he suggested. "Even the Democrats say the dispensaries are out of control, the patients don't look sick, the doctors are too lenient," he said. "Our base of support in Sacramento is eroding."

"I will call out my own party," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). "It's time to get militant. There is a pro-marijuana vote, it's bipartisan, and it's populist."

There is support for medical marijuana on the right side of the aisle in Sacramento, too. "Very few, even in my party, still believe in Reefer Madness," said Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Orange County).

Pending California Marijuana Initiatives

A session on pending California marijuana legalization, decriminalization, and medical marijuana initiatives was useful for sorting out the competing proposals, with representatives of all serious proposals at the table. Here they are:

The Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act would simply repeal the sections of California law prohibiting marijuana. It would also create a California Cannabis Commission to create a system of regulated cannabis commerce.

"If conduct is not prohibited, the feds cannot force a state to prohibit it," said Joe Rogoway, one of the initiative's sponsors. "This initiative eviscerates cannabis prohibition in California, all the laws would be wiped off the books," he said.

The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine initiative would also repeal marijuana prohibition and set up a system of regulated distribution. It mandates the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to set up regulations for sales by 2013. It is sponsored by, among others, long-time Libertarian and legalization activist Steve Kubby and retired Orange County Superior Court Judge Jim Gray.

"We've done our homework," said Gray. "We address those things that scare voters. We will have 10,000 valid signatures in two weeks," he vowed.

conference audience (courtesy HCLU)
Unlike the two legalization initiatives above, political consultant Bill Zimmerman's Marijuana Penalties Act would not legalize it, but would extend California's current decriminalization of up to an ounce to up to two ounces.

"California is not ready to legalize marijuana," argued Zimmerman, "but a strong majority agree that private adult use should not result in jail time. It seems sensible to try to move the ball forward this year."

Then there is the California Economic, Environmental, Hemp Restoration Act of 2012, a project of the Budget Economic Environmental Protection Alliance, which would legalize industrial hemp, medical marijuana, and recreational marijuana for people 21 and over. This initiative is still in the drafting phase.

"We want to create green jobs now," said initiative promoter Mark O'Hara. "Let's legalize industrial hemp and adult marijuana."

Finally, the folks who brought you Proposition 19, the California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, have decided to forego another legalization bid for 2012, and are instead working on an initiative to regulate medical marijuana statewide.

"We want to create a robust environment for our members," said United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) cannabis division head Dan Rush. "Our initiative isn't done yet, but we want to be inclusive, serve people, the industry, and patients."

Rush was the only one to mention the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the mountain of cash it will take for any of the initiatives to make the ballot, let alone win in November 2012.

"We need to raise $15 million for the initiative and legislative action," he said. "We need a broad coalition beyond our movement."

More to Come

This article has touched on only a tiny fraction of what was discussed in Los Angeles last weekend. Look for more about and/or inspired by the conference in the near future. In the meantime, the Drug Policy Alliance deserves praise for once again putting together a reform conference that is staggering in its breadth and depth, and, as just about everyone agreed, maximally inspirational.

Los Angeles, CA
United States

What’s it like to smoke herb with Rick Santorum?

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/santorummarijuana1.png

Huffington Post has a nifty little slideshow looking at the Republican presidential candidate’s positions and past statements on marijuana. Short version: Gary Johnson and Ron Paul support freedom and common sense, the rest are generally in favor of arresting lots of people.

But if I learned one thing from reading this, it’s that holy crap, Rick Santorum smoked weed in college. I did not know this. Really, just try to picture Rick Santorum sucking on a bong without cringing and freaking out a little. I can’t do it.

Still, it does a raise a lot of interesting questions, such as who the hell gave weed to that guy and what happened next? Honestly, if I was packing bowls in a dorm room somewhere and somebody brings Rick frickin’ Santorum into the session, I’m immediately calling a Code Red Suspected Narc alert and jumping out the window.

In any case, Rick Santorum makes a pretty good poster-boy for proving that you can smoke pot without getting addicted, turning into a hippie, or otherwise derailing your dream of becoming a homophobic, bible-thumping Republican Senator.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

An Open Letter to President Obama on Medical Marijuana and 2012

(Democratic consultant David Krute tells President Obama why the medical marijuana crackdown is a bad idea.)

President Obama, Cabinet and Election Team,

As a 4th generation Democrat I can tell you that the sure way to lose your voters is to attach yourself to Holder's 4 prong Medical Marijuana ambush. There will be many MMJ initiatives across the country in 2012. The MMJ voter will be needed by President Obama if he is to win re-election in Nov. 2012. The Marijuana policy announced will cost 5-10% of the vote or more in key states. Killing the economy with more reefer madness is madness you know. If I were the average American Citizen and I smoked Marijuana, Barack Obama would not have my vote as he did last election.

Why This is So:
1.) As many as 5-13 different states could wind up having Marijuana measures on the Nov. 2012 ballot.
2.) There will be at least 2 tough swing States in play that are heavily invested in Marijuana.
3.) Somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 votes will be lost if President Obama supports or even appears to be in support of this ridiculous Federal attack on Patients and the medicine they need. As the co-author of the CA Economic Budget Hemp Restoration Act 2012 with a 33 year record of support for the legalization of all forms of Hemp and Senior Consultant to the "Budget, Economic, Environmental, Protection, Alliance" (BEEP-ALL) as well as the Publisher of the largest Democratic slate mail program in the Nation, expecting to mail at least 8 million households of mail personally on 2 separate graphically designed targeted mail pieces, I believe my record as a Democrat, Job Creator and Environmental Advocate are undeniable.
4.) I do not believe President Obama put any real thought into this 4 prong Federal Assault on Patients, Caregivers and the entities they must work with in order to receive their medicine.
5.) Mr. Holder is very mistaken if he thinks that an all out assault on a significant part of the American Voters will be his answer to the mess in Mexico.

What is Really Happening:
1.) At a time when properties and businesses are closing and foreclosing every day, Landowners are being threatened with property forfeiture if they do not shut down their only rental sources. (Foreclosure or Forfeiture is the option landowners are being given.)
2.) Banks are being told that if they don't close out Thousands of accounts they will lose their Federal Insurance Status. (When there is NO Money let's make Millions of Dollars go underground again. That will surely fix the economy.)
3.) The IRS has declared that Marijuana Dispensaries are not eligible for regular business tax write-offs. (Since they will not be keeping anything in banks it will be impossible to figure out what they made anyway so we will not receive taxes from a large majority of businesses that are paying their fair share now. The rest will pay less next year than they have in the past.)
4.) Patients and Caregivers will have their gun licenses revoked. (Because cancer patients and their caregivers are the problem in the war on Guns in America. Retail Storefront owners who distribute medicine are the ones who don't need to protect their product or patients. Only liquor stores and bars need to be protected by an employee with a gun behind the counter.)

In Conclusion President Obama, you must reign in your henchmen; Allow legitimate business that are creating jobs, paying salaries and taxes to operate openly and legitimately; Stop harassing our sick and elderly; And for god sakes, don't take millions of dollars out of the banking system driving it all back underground into the nontaxable black market and think you will be president in 2013. This is as unintelligent a plan as I've ever heard come from Washington and therefore I give you the benefit of the doubt that it was not on the top of your list. It must be put there now if you are truly for the American people and you would like to serve them for a second term.

Sincerely,

David Krute
Senior Consultant, BEEP-ALL
Budget Economic Environmental Protection Alliance
Publisher, Election Education Guide Mail Program
www.DavidKrute.com
www.BEEPALL.org

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Mexico Says "No Thanks" to Perry's US Troops Idea

Mexico's ambassador to the US reiterated Monday that deploying US troops to Mexico to help fight violent drug trafficking organizations is not an option. Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan was responding to remarks made by GOP presidential contender Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

US-Mexico border (wikimedia.org)
On Saturday, Perry raised eyebrows by suggesting on the campaign trail that Mexico's problems with the so-called cartels might require US military assistance. His comments came in response to a question while campaigning in New Hampshire.

"It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of our border and to destroy their networks," Perry said.

That idea wouldn't fly, Sarukhan said in remarks to reporters Monday. "The issue of participation, or the presence of, US troops on Mexican soil is not on the table." Having US troops on Mexican soil "is not a element of strategy that is being foreseen, not a part of the tremendously innovative ways in which Mexico and the United States have been using to fight transnational organized crime." No US troops has been Mexico's policy "for a very long time," he added.

Mexico has been sensitive about the issue of US troops since 1848, when the US seized half of Mexico's national territory in the Mexican-American War. That historic trauma has led Mexico to make non-interventionism a pillar of its foreign policy.

The US and Mexico do cooperate in the struggle to suppress the drug trade, mostly through information exchanges, but also via the $1.4 billion Plan Merida aid package. But neither Mexican troops nor American aid dollars have been able to suppress the outbreak of bloody prohibition-related violence plaguing Mexico since President Felipe Calderon deployed the military against the cartels in late 2006.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Washington, DC
United States

Santorum Attacks Perry on Medical Marijuana

With the contest for the Republican presidential nomination now in full swing, the candidates are looking for any issue on which to attack their competitors. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum thinks that in medical marijuana he has found an issue with which to lay into arguable front-runner Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Santorum is attacking Perry for the latter's states' rights approach to medical marijuana, a stance the Texas governor articulated in his book Fed Up! and which his spokesman reaffirmed this week to the Washington Post. In Fed Up!, Perry wrote that while he opposed marijuana legalization, he supported the right of states like California to legalize it themselves.

"When the federal government oversteps its authority, states should tell Washington they will not be complicit in enforcing laws with which they do not agree," he wrote. "Again, the best example is an issue I don't even agree with -- the partial legalization of marijuana. Californians clearly want some level of legalized marijuana, be it for medicinal use or otherwise. The federal government is telling them they cannot. But states are not bound to enforce federal law, and the federal government cannot commandeer state resources and require them to enforce it."

That wasn't the only reference to marijuana and state rights in the book. "If you don't support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don't come to Texas," Perry wrote. "If you don't like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don't move to California."

Queried this week by the Post about the passages, Perry spokesman Mark Miner reaffirmed Perry's position. "While the governor is personally opposed to legalizing the use of medical marijuana, if states want to allow doctor prescribed medical marijuana, it seems to him that under the 10th Amendment, they have the right to do so."

That was something Santorum, who is struggling to break into the front ranks, thought he could sink his teeth into. "Gov. Perry was quite clear too in his recently published book, that the definition of marriage should be left up to 50 different state interpretations," a Santorum spokesman told the Post. "It's certainly Gov. Perry right to believe marriage can be redefined at the state level, that marijuana can be legalized and that tax dollars should be used to give illegal aliens special college tuition rates, but that's completely out of touch with what most Americans believe."

But on medical marijuana, at least, it is Santorum who is out of touch. National polls on medical marijuana in the past decade show support levels of above 60% in every poll, and up into the 80% zone in some polls.

Two other Republican contenders, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, support drug policy reform including medical marijuana.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Washington, DC
United States

Perry, Romney Burnish Drug Warrior Credentials

Two of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination sought to win votes by talking tough on drugs this week, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry calling for unmanned drones to overfly the US-Mexico border and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney saying the war on drugs must continue.

Rick Perry wants drones to overfly the US-Mexico border to surveil the drug traffic, but they already are. (image via Wikimedia)
Meanwhile Rep. Ron Paul, one of two GOP contenders who have staked out positions critical of the drug war (the other is former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson), has seemingly vanished from the mainstream media despite coming in a very close second to Rep. Michele Bachmann in last weekend's Iowa straw poll.

Going on the offensive against President Obama as he announced his candidacy Saturday, Perry accused Obama of being "an abject failure in his constitutional duty to protect our borders in the United States." Perry waved his right hand toward Mexico as he made those remarks.

Later the same day, at a campaign event in New Hampshire, the tough-talking Texan again laid into Obama, this time calling for the use of unmanned drones to track the flow of drugs coming from Mexico. The Predator drones can stay aloft for up to 20 hours and are equipped with video and tracking technologies.

"We know that there are Predator drones being flown for practice every day because we're seeing them; we're preparing these young people to fly missions in these war zones that we have," Perry told the crowd. "But some of those, they have all the equipment, they're obviously unarmed, they've got the downward-looking radar, they've got the ability to do night work and through clouds. Why not be flying those missions and using (that) real-time information to help our law enforcement?" he asked.

That could be a valid question if one accepts the war on drugs paradigm, which Perry obviously does. The only problem with Perry's query is that the Department of Homeland Security is already deploying drones along the entirety of the US-Mexico border.

Romney, for his part, addressed substance use and the war on drugs in response to questions from the audience, including one from drug war zealot Steven Steiner, who founded Dads and Mad Moms Against Drug Dealers (DAMMAD) after his 19-year-old son died of a drug overdose.

"We've got to not only continue our war on drugs from a police standpoint, but also to market again to our young people about the perils of drugs," the front-running candidate said in response to questions in Littleton.

Romney was responding to one local businessman who complained that he and fellow rural business owners had trouble finding educated workers who can pass a drug test. He replied that people have to teach their children to get an education and stay away from drugs.

Later that evening, at a Berlin town hall, Steiner stood up and said he was frustrated with presidential candidates not talking more about drugs. Romney offered his condolences, said parents must do a better job of warning young people, mentioned his advisors on drug policy are worried about the medical marijuana movement, and offered a joke about it.

"There's a lot of marijuana on the beach," Romney said, referring to California and his home there. "It's amazing how many teenagers have medical problems that require marijuana. I'm saying that facetiously."

Drug policy is beginning to emerge as a campaign issue for the Republican contenders. Look for an in-depth Chronicle article on the candidates and their positions after Labor Day.



(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Gary Johnson Snubbed in CNN GOP Presidential Debate

CNN held its first televised debate among Republican presidential candidates Monday tonight, but while the cable news network issued invitations to several non- or yet-to-announce candidates, it excluded one announced candidate who meets the criteria for inclusion. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, an avowed and articulate opponent of drug prohibition, was not invited to participate, and his campaign and supporters are crying foul.

Gov. Gary Johnson -- you didn't see him on CNN for the debate. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
CNN, along with WMUR-TV and the Manchester Union-Leader, the debate cosponsors, set the bar for an invitation at the candidate having received an average of at least 2% in at least three national polls during the month of May. According to the Johnson campaign, Johnson has met that hurdle, polling an average of precisely 2% in three national polls last month.

"It is our hope that CNN will review the criteria that has excluded two-term Governor Gary Johnson from the New Hampshire debate," said senior Johnson campaign advisor Ron Nielson on Saturday. "Now that this information has come to light, we look forward to receiving an invitation for Governor Johnson to participate."

But CNN didn't change its mind. Instead, the network presented front-runner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Godfather's Pizza entrepreneur Herman Cain, non-announced candidate  (until her announcement during the debate itself) Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Most of the invitations were well-justified. According to Real Clear Politics' aggregate poll data (which also does not include Johnson) all of the invitees are above 2%, although Santorum, at 3.2% overall, only averaged 2.67% in three May polls. Up until debate time non-announced candidate Bachmann is averaging 5.1%, although that's a decline from her May poll average of 7%.

Still, why Johnson was excluded even though he has officially announced and meets the debate criteria remains a mystery. CNN said it only wanted "serious" candidates with at least 2% of the vote, but also admitted it failed to include Johnson in its own polls.

Well, Republican-leaning drug reformers at least had Ron Paul to listen to.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Manchester, NH
United States

Will Tim Pawlenty's Crazy Ideas About Marijuana Hurt His Presidential Hopes?

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/TimPawlentyMarijuana.png
"Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people. Someone has to lead. I will.” So says newly announced Republican Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, who believes that people who are dying from serious illnesses deserve to be arrested if they use the marijuana for relief:


Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill to legalize marijuana for terminally ill patients late Friday evening, saying he sides with law enforcement opposition to the bill.

Joni Whiting, whose testimony of finding marijuana for her dying daughter brought tears to many legislators’ eyes, had harsh words for Pawlenty.

"The governor thinks I’m a criminal for allowing my daughter some comfort during the last months of her life," she said. "I don't know how he sleeps at night, but I do know I'm not giving up until others in my daughter's situation are protected." (Minnesota Independent)
 

If nothing else, Pawlenty can at least be remembered as having taken a bold stand for what he believed in, which in this case was the right to imprison people with months to live. It's a sickening position to take, but at least he did it for a legitimate reason (some cops told him to). Ok, this is hard to spin, actually.

A 2010 poll showed Republican support for medical marijuana at 72% (and that's without narrowing it down to only covering dying patients in a failed attempt to stop stupid Tim Pawlenty from vetoing it). Marijuana policy in general isn't exactly the top issue among voters on the right, but it's gained tremendous momentum in recent years. Ron Paul and Gary Johnson have proven that supporting reform of marijuana laws can create significant support from previously alienated republican voters, and their growing bandwagon will be eager to discuss subjects such as Pawlenty's bone-headed opposition to even the strictest possible medical marijuana law.

The number of swing votes tied directly to the marijuana policy debate has never been larger than it is today and if the GOP is serious about winning back the White House in 2012, it really might be a good idea to choose a candidate who is better than Obama when it comes to fixing harsh marijuana laws. That person is not Tim Pawlenty.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Willie Waffles on Johnson Endorsement

It was nice while it lasted, but it didn't last long. On May 17, in a pair of press releases (here and here), Willie Nelson's Teapot Party and the campaign of Republican presidential contender Gary Johnson announced the Teapot Party's endorsement of Johnson. The next day, Willie changed his mind.

"The more I get into politics, the more I realize I'm a guitar player." (Image via Wikimedia.org)
In a Teapot Party blog post, Steve Bloom of Celebstoner.com, who had played a key role in setting up a meeting between Nelson and Johnson ten days ago and who played a similar role in getting the campaign and the party to announce the endorsement, explained what happened. After the Texas meeting, Willie sent an email to Bloom saying, "I think we ought to endorse him."

That email was the basis for the twin announcements Tuesday. But when Bloom sent the press release and media coverage links to Nelson, he got a surprise.

"My position is it too early for me to endorse anyone," Willie responded. "And I think everyone should vote their own conscience."

Bloom replied, reminding Willie that he had okayed the endorsement.

"I know I said that," Nelson responded. "But I think I will wait and see where he stands on other things. My bad. Sorry. I still think he is a good guy, but so is Dennis [Kucinich] and if he decided to run I would personally vote for him. If it came down to either him or Gary I'm already committed to Dennis. They both have said they support legal pot."

When Bloom replied, reminding Nelson that the Johnson endorsement was only for the Republican nomination, Willie again demurred.

"The Teapot Party is millions of people," he replied. "It's not me. I jokingly said after I got out of jail in Texas that there is a Tea Party and there should be a Teapot Party. The difference between us is we follow our own drummer. No one can tell us how to think. If we back someone, that's us telling them how to vote. I'm not qualified. You can say or do anything you like and I will do the same but let's don't back a political candidate. Let's give our opinions and say what we know about everyone but let's let everyone decide for themselves."

What's next, then? Bloom asked Nelson.

"I still say that the people have the power to change things and they will if they vote," Nelson replied. "The Teapot Party started as a joke but it could still be a way for people to speak out about important things. I am not a criminal. The millions of pot smokers in this country are not criminals. We don't like being treated as such and I for one will stand up for what I believe in and will vote for anyone I choose. You should do the same. We are not ever going to agree on everything and everybody. The best advice I ever got was from my ex father-in-law. He said take my advice and do what you want to. End of story."

Bloom reported one more email from Nelson: "This will blow over and the world moves on. No harm done. We sound like a bunch of pot smokers, that's all... The more I get into politics the more I realize that I am a guitar player."

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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