This is the first Republican member of Congress to state his support for recreational marijuana legalization.
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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a libertarian serving Orange County, told the Christian Science Monitor this week that he would back a recreational legalization initiative in his state. "Providing the federal government the right to control personal behavior, it's totally contradictory to what our country is all about," he said. It's a conservative argument for why to legalize, but it has the same goal as the liberal-led legalization campaigns that have made headway around the country.
CSM also quoted Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, saying that Rohrabacher's support is "monumental," while noting that he is "the first Republican congressman to endorse legalization."
This is a huge deal. It indicates that Republicans are jumping on the pot legalization bandwagon. It's another victory for the legalization movement, which is seeing growing support from Republicans at all levels of government. Earlier this year, 49 congressional Republicans voted to allow states to administer medical marijuana without federal intervention, nearly one-quarter of the affirmative vote. Also this year, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) showed support for legalization when he led a charge to reschedule marijuana in order to allow medical marijuana programs. And many conservative-leaning states like Mississippi and Alabama have reformed their marijuana laws to allow certain forms of medical cannabis. But this is the first time a Republican congressman is coming out in support of recreational marijuana in his state, and legalization advocates are hailing it as "monumental."
What was once a partisan issue is now becoming less so. Traditionally, Democrats support marijuana legalization and Republicans oppose it, but that tide is turning. Marijuana doesn't fall cleanly along party lines anymore. A Huffington Post survey found that a majority of voluntary respondents across party lines support Colorado's pioneering legalization effort, including 52% who identify themselves as Republican. With more and more Republicans seeing marijuana prohibition as an overreach of the federal government, people of different political ideologies are finally coming together on this issue. Attitudes toward cannabis legalization are shifting all over the country, and it projects great things for the future of marijuana reform in America.
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The takeaway: There's still a long way to go before we see widespread reform of marijuana prohibition on both state and federal levels, but the new trend of Republican support for legalization shows that cannabis won't always be an issue dividing political parties, like so many other ideological issues have. That removes a massive hurdle from the path toward legalized weed.