Republican Congressional Candidates Back Marijuana Reform | Marijuana

Republican Congressional Candidates Back Marijuana Reform


Congress will likely be at least two votes closer to ending federal marijuana prohibition if a pair of Republicans win their U.S. House races in November.

Respecting the right of states to set their own marijuana laws without federal interference is “a wonderful example of an area in which I think we can work across the aisle and we can see a reemergence of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments,” Tom Garrett, the Republican nominee for Virginia’s 5th Congressional district seat, said in a debate on Wednesday night. “That’s something that on day one we will go to Washington and fight for. It simply makes sense.”

The candidate was answering a question about issues on which he’d be willing to buck his party’s leadership and collaborate on with Democrats. “I think we can find common sense and agreement on both sides of the aisle,” he said.

Garrett, currently a Virginia state senator, is running against Democrat Jane Dittmar to replace retiring Congressman Robert Hurt (R).

Since taking office in 2011, Hurt has consistently voted against floor amendments to prevent the federal government from impeding implementation of state medical cannabis programs. Last year he also voted against a measure to stop the feds from interfering with all state marijuana laws, including those that allow recreational use and sales.

The medical marijuana measure earned enough bipartisan support to be enacted for the past two fiscal years, but the broader measure failed last June by a vote of  206 – 222, meaning that if just nine no votes were flipped to yes, the amendment would pass.

“While I’m not advocating for legalization, I’m advocating for the return to the state’s role as it relates to determining the appropriate marijuana policy,” Garrett, a former prosecutor, said in the debate.

The remarks indicate that Garrett would likely vote for the marijuana amendments when they come up in the House in 2017. And he’s not the first Republican Congressional candidate running this year to replace a retiring marijuana law reform opponent to make comments hinting that legalization advocates could soon flip opposition seats to supportive ones.

Jason Lewis, the Republican nominee in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional district, is a longtime talk radio host who has strongly criticized the war on drugs.

“For the record, I happen to agree with the critics on the futility of most ‘crimes’ between two consenting adults; enforcement seldom works (see prohibition and the war on drugs) and ends up creating more problems than it solves,” he wrote in his 2011 book.

John Kline, the retiring Republican congressman who currently holds the Minnesota seat, voted eight times against the amendments to restrict the federal government’s ability to interfere with state medical cannabis laws. He also voted last year against the broader amendment to protect all state marijuana laws.

Replacing Kline and Hurt with Lewis and Garrett would likely bring legalization advocates two steps closer to passing the amendment to protect state marijuana legalization laws from federal interference.

(The marijuana positions of Dittmar and of Lewis opponent Angie Craig are unknown, so it is possible that cannabis law reform advocates could pick up support in the House regardless of the outcome of the two November contests.)

In the Wednesday debate, Garrett also criticized the federal government’s current classification of marijuana under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a designation that is supposed to be reserved for drugs with no medical value.

Referring to a Virginia law he helped pass as a state senator which allows people suffering from severe seizure disorders to use low-THC/high-CBD cannabis extracts, Garrett called medical marijuana “probably the best solution there is, and we had to fight against pharmacists in Virginia who were afraid to dispense the drug because it was federally illegal.”

As a state lawmaker he also sponsored legislation to prevent people from losing drivers licenses for marijuana possession offenses. But last year he voted against a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. Oliver Steinberg on

    To vote for any Republican this year is to play along with the Trump team. Trump is a dictator by nature, temperament, and inclination and his top advisors would be anti-marijuana Chris Christie (as A.G., no doubt) and reefer-madness Mike Pence as V.P. Jason Lewis, like a broken clock that is right twice a day, doesn’t deserve anyone’s vote. He’s a pseudo-intellectual radio personality with a long record of sexism and pandering to the corporate master class. With friends like him, marijuana reform scarcely needs enemies!
    It would be tragedy of historic dimension if Trump were elected, comparable to 1933 in Germany. Think about it: “I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and they would still support me.”
    It’s true. Trump brings the most important ingredient of fascism—unquestioning, blindly loyal, violently-inclined followers. It may seem ridiculous that this conceited ignoramus, this comical-appearing person Donald Trump is the incarnation of American fascism, but I’m not laughing. He is dangerous, and anything that empowers him or contributes to the presentation of him as a legitimate candidate or in any sense a qualified candidate, amplifies that danger.
    For that reason, please vote for NO Republicans for ANY office! Republicans in Congress, regardless of their individual opinions, will follow the leader. For 30 years, the Republicans have been heading this nation towards fascism, and now the pay off is upon us. It was the Republican administrations of Reagan and Bush that pumped new life into the war on drugs, and intimidated the Democrats who had any inkling of moderation or hesitancy about it, into signing on for that descent into tyranny. The drug war served as the template for high-tech totalitarianism—DEA was tapping phones and snooping on electronic communication decades before NSA and FBI scaled up their spying on Americans.
    I could go on to supplement this indictment, but there’s work to be done. Here in Minnesota, we don’t want or need Jason Lewis to be identified as the face of marijuana legalization.
    Anyway, Tom, how politically naive can you be? Remember Al Franken–our US Senator from Minnesota? Before election, he wrote in his book how he anticipated passage of the “end the stupid drug war act.” After election, he listened without demurral to DEA-boss-designate Michelle Leonhardt call medical marijuana a hoax and a joke—and then Franken voted to confirm her. Remember Jesse Ventura—elected as an independent in 1998 on a pro-medical marijuana, anti-drug-war platform, he then appointed as his commissioner of public safety a former legislator and prosecutor who had a long record as a drug-war promoter—and who proceeded to sabotage Ventura’s medical bill with his friends in the state senate. Now, long out of office, Ventura is crusading against cannabis prohibition—but he did less than that when he had the chance. So quit cheerleading for Jason Lewis—at least consult with the real cannabis reformers here in Minnesota before you do so. We’ll be sustaining the fight for cannabis liberation long after Congressman Lewis sells out, long after he becomes another cog in the perpetual political institutionalization of repression and mass incarceration. The point to realize is that whatever he’s said in the past or may be saying now, Lewis will support the GOP leadership in D.C., and it is the GOP leadership which steadfastly blocks, resists, and prevents progress on Cannabis legalization. As for the guy from Virginia, I don’t know about him so won’t say anything in detraction . . . but still I object to anyone voting Republican for any office this year because the effect inevitably and unavoidably is to enable and empower Trump, whose election truly and and finally will install an irreversible police state—replete with torture, disappearances, perverted courts, and military suppression of dissent or resistance.

  2. Hold on a second sir. Watch your mouth. If that ain’t verbal treason towards our former presidents and our current government organizations. Then I don’t know what is. Let’s make something plainly clear. Reagon was one of the best damn presidents we ever had. If you want a problem with somebody over weed. Have it with his wife Nancy. She started the just say no movement. Also! I followed operation Iraqi freedom from start to finish. It was never about oil like the news and social media sensationalized. I saw the sattelite imagery of the wmd’s on major news stations. While our boys were sitting in Kuwait. waiting on congress to get up off there butts and tell our president Mr bush that he could give them the order to invade Iraq. Those weapons that the whole world was told never existed. Were on the damn news for a week. Being shown getting trucked into Syria and Russia. Then some odd years later Mr Assad uses chemical weapons on his own people. Not hard to figure out where he got them. and before you call someone tolitarian. Our current residing leader. Swore on the Koran. Breaking american tradition every president followed since 1776. He abuses his power constantly and does nothing but try to remove American rights and take away our freedoms. Obama.replace the b with a s what do you get. And yall want to vote for Hillary. So our second amendment is abolished. That right is the only thing standing in between. The american people and red China walking right in. They sell more goods in this country than america does. Believe every lie and bs story or piece of garbage you get fed by the news or the internet. If america actually knew the truth. Everyone would be scared to death. They would want trump in office. He knows what I know that’s why he’s running. The cycle has got to be broken. Our votes have never counted. Presidents are chosin by bloodline.

    • Oliver Steinberg on

      You wouldn’t know a fact if it bit you. I’m sorry you’re so addicted to fear and lies. There is no cure for someone as deluded as you, but let’s spell some things out. It wasn’t President Obama, it was U.S. Representative Keith Ellison who took the oath of office on the Koran–on a copy which had once been the personal possession of Thomas Jefferson. You might have heard of Jefferson–he wrote something called the Declaration of Independence. I dare you to actually read the Constitution, which is a lot longer than merely the Second Amendment, by the way, including Article 6: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
      As for Obama, he managed to knock off Osama bin Laden after your boy Bush failed to do so. Junior Bush sent US armed forces into Iraq where Osama wasn’t, and never had been, and thereby set off a string of events leading up to the bloody expansion of terror, including free-lance lone-wolf terrorists, that we now have to cope with. But it wasn’t about oil? How come when we seized Baghdad, the Army put the Oil Ministry under armed guard immediately, but left the Iraqi national museum, full of relics from Biblical times and even much earlier, completely unprotected so it could be looted with the loss of irreplaceable priceless historical treasures. Was the entire US command as ignorant as, for instance, you are? I doubt it.
      Your precious second amendment is in no danger from Clinton or anyone else; it’s the rest of the Bill of Rights that has been shredded, originally in the name of the war on drugs and now in the name of war on terror. Only it’s American citizens whose rights are ripped off, and terrorists are not deterred.
      The paranoia about “they’re coming to take our guns” is so transparently Freudian that it’s almost funny–the gun is that psychological projection of penis-power which insecure guys, unsure of their own masculinity, use to reinforce their pathetic pretense to manhood–for instance, John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr., & the Arizona assassin who shot Gifford and killed a judge, etc. etc.
      You know no actual history, but you believe an encyclopedia of myths from lying right-wing propagandists, which makes you perfect material for the ranks of Trump’s stormtroopers . . . but for facts, you’re a loser. Take Ronald Reagan–launched his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia MS, a city known for only one thing–the murder there in 1964 of three civil rights workers, and Reagan didn’t mention that but he did declare his support for “states rights”–the political code words for white supremacy and racial segregation; and there’s a United Press International news story Oct. 3, 1982, “Reagan vows war on drugs . . . President Reagan announced Saturday that the federal government would launch an aggressive ‘hot pursuit’ policy to catch dope dealers . . .” On other occasions Reagan declared that “marijuana is the most dangerous drug in America.” But you want to say he wasn’t responsible and the 1980’s drug witch hunt was somehow cooked up by his wife Nancy behind his back and without his awareness. What a crock! Ronnie and Nancy worked together, and if she was the brainier of the two he didn’t mind, so although your imaginary hero really was an apron-string character by your definition, he was fully committed to drug repression. (While hypocritically bringing hard liquor back to White House events, after the Southern Baptist Carters had banished it.)
      And your hero Reagan sent Marines into harm’s way in Lebanon. When almost 300 U.S.Marines were murdered in a single terrorist bomb attack, did Reagan order retaliatory invasion? No, he cut and ran and pulled out of that Middle Eastern quagmire. For distraction he staged a diverting little unconstitutional invasion of the micro-nation of Grenada in the Caribbean–a pygmy nation quickly overrun at the command of one of the real moral pygmies who’s ever occupied the White House.
      So you can call me a traitor if it pleases you, just because I know what happened and tell the truth about it. To me, that’s true patriotism. You want to play follow-the-Leader instead of thinking for yourself, looking at hard facts and unpleasant truths. President Roosevelt in 1993, during the darkest Depression days, told Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Sure, that was a rhetorical statement–but it helped brace American morale and brought the nation back to its feet. Unlike Germany, Italy, and Russia, the USA remained free.
      Nowadays we hear from Trump and his claque (look it up) of lying media shills that we must be afraid of everyone and even our own shadows–and that manipulation of fear, combined with exciting prejudice and hatred in all directions against every non-white, non-male, non-Christian person in sight–that’s the road Trump is driving down in his lust for power and adoration. He’s more like Caligula than Hitler, really, but the resemblance to 20th century fascism is scary. Of course, I remember stuff that you’ve never heard about and never learned in your life. The first Republican President was Abraham Lincoln, who crushed the Confederacy (what would he think of the Trump chumps’ devotion to the Confederate battle flag?) and freed the slaves–which in terms of monetary value was the greatest government seizure of citizens’ property in American history. No Republican today would believe what Lincoln believed: “What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, our army and our navy. These are not our reliance against tyranny . . . Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own door . . . Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.”
      I have no admiration for Hillary as a politician or as a public figure. She came to prominence as a consort; that is, as the wife of a popular and talented politician. Couldn’t have made it on her own, and hasn’t done great stuff. She’s a run-of-the-mill establishment hack. But far better for our nation to elect her than to forfeit our heritage of freedom and follow Trump into madness and destruction. And every Republican who plays along with Trump is equally morally bankrupt and pernicious. I have written this at length to vent my resentment at your supposing you know enough to call me a “traitor.” I use my own name, I have the courage of my convictions, you can come over to St.Paul Minnesota and call me a traitor to my face if you like. I don’t hide behind internet anonymity. I don’t know who you are, of course, but I already know what you are. And Tom Angell, if you read this, I suggest Seymour Lipset’s book “The Age of Unreason” as a good background for understanding the present political circumstances.

    • Oliver Steinberg on

      According to Freedom Leaf magazine: In May, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include language in the 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to permit VA doctors to recommend cannabis therapy. However, REPUBLICANS sitting on the House Appropriations Committee decided in June to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. [Emphasis added.] So your precious Republicans pulled the old now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t political trick, depriving VETERANS of the right to receive medical cannabis! Those are the hypocrites you think are so great and that’s the kind of double-dealing you’ll get from Trump or any of his fascist gang. You’ve been taken in by the political confidence men if you vote for them. And they’ll keep you fooled by offering you a scapegoat to suit your prejudices—Mexicans, Muslims, liberals, gays, women—take your pick, sucker. Hey, they may yet start in after the Jews again. I wouldn’t be surprised.

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