By John Payne
A number of Missouri media outlets have recently reported on the fact that Mitch Richards, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation’s (SMCR) first official treasurer, is now running for state representative — as a Republican. This fact did not surprise people in and around the legislative district in and around Columbia that Richards is running to represent, as he is a well known liberty activist in the area, but it came as something of a shock to Sandy Berger, a former Saint Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, who is so attached to moth-eaten marijuana cliches that he seems to be unaware that ending marijuana prohibition is now more popular with the American people than either of the major political parties.
From Berger’s blog, the story got to Jessica Lussenhop at The Riverfront Times, a good reporter, who found the idea of a pro-legalization Republican intriguing and took the basic journalistic step of contacting SMCR’s executive director (me) for a comment. I explained to Lussenhop that although Republicans are still less likely than Democrats to support cannabis law reform, ”there’s definitely some change going on in the Republican party in Missouri. A lot of younger people are more libertarian-minded…Show-Me Cannabis welcomes people from all parties. I think we can all see the problems with marijuana prohibition.”
In an interview with respected Saint Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan, Richards himself expounded on why his position on cannabis is consistent with Republican principles:
He said his position on pot was consistent with his preference for a small government. He compared his support for medical marijuana to his opposition of Obamacare.
“If we believe the government shouldn’t tell us which doctors we can go to, why should the government be able to tell us what medicines we can use?”
It’s not just money, he added. It’s about federalism, and separation of powers. If we’re going to say we believe in limited government, we should be consistent, he said. Otherwise, we invite the derision of the people, particularly young people, he said.
Richards is right about why Republicans should support ending cannabis prohibition, but that position should transcend political parties. Republicans and conservatives should support reform because it will save taxpayer money and limit the size of government; Democrats and liberals should support reform because it expands personal autonomy; and everyone should support reform because our current prohibitionist policies utterly fail to achieve any of their goals. No matter what our political affiliation or ideology, we should all know a failed policy when we see one.
Republished with the special permission of the National Cannabis Coalition
John Payne is the campaign director for Show-Me Cannabis Regulation in Missouri and a member of the National Cannabis Coalition’s board of directors. He first became involved in cannabis law reform when he joined the Students for a Sensible Drug Policy chapter at Washington University in Saint Louis in 2001. After graduating from college, John taught high school social studies before embarking on a career as a writer. He worked for the Show-Me Institute, a think tank that advocates free market policies for the state of Missouri from 2009 to 2011, when he joined Show-Me Cannabis Regulation. His articles have appeared in Young American Revolution, The American Conservative, and Reason Magazine, as well as newspapers across Missouri.