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Saying "Ron Paul Can't Legalize Marijuana" Is Stupid and Misses the Point of his Candidacy
I don't know how else to describe my reaction to this piece by Chris Roberts in SF Weekly. It's truly a first-rate hack job that must be seen to be believed.

A growing number of marijuana activists are embracing Paul as a pot-friendly alternative to President Barack Obama, whose Justice Department has done more to dismantle state-legal medical marijuana than George W. Bush's crew ever did. 

These supporters ignore a key point: If Paul were president, he wouldn't be any better for legalizing marijuana than President Obama -- or worse than Romney or Santorum.

Marijuana was criminalized by the feds in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed by Congress (under pressure from Richard M. Nixon's administration). Only Congress can repeal an act of Congress, just as only Congress can amend the Constitution, raise taxes, and wage war (legally). 

The whole thing is a pretty embarrassing mischaracterization of the executive branch's critical role in setting national drug policy priorities. Heck, even the above paragraph points to Nixon as the protagonist in the story of how modern drug prohibition was born. Electing a president who is committed to correcting that mistake is one of the most powerful forward steps this movement can take, and this is true for several reasons that ought to be obvious:

  1. The president appoints the nation's top drug policy officials, including heads of the ONDCP (the Drug Czar) and the DEA, and can exert tremendous influence over their budgets and enforcement priorities.
  2. The president has the power to veto bad laws. If anyone is concerned about congress passing dumb anti-drug legislation in the future (a legitimate concern if ever one existed), they would be wise to support candidates who would reject our continued decent into endless drug war oblivion.
  3. The president can pressure congress to implement sensible reforms, including the passage of legislation to fix problems created by congress in the past. Not a walk in the park when it comes to drug policy, not even close, but technically true nevertheless, and certain to become critically important as the movement for drug policy reform continues its present momentum and exerts increasing influence over both the executive and legislative branches of government.
  4. The president has the loudest microphone on the planet and can use it to change the way people think about the issues facing our nation. This alone suffices to illustrate unequivocally why putting a marijuana reform advocate into the White House would be the greatest watershed moment in the history of this movement. One can't even begin to calculate all the ways in which the president's influence could be used to advance the cause of reform. I can’t believe it's even necessary to explain this, because honestly, when has anyone ever seriously suggested that the president's opinion on any matter of intense political debate was somehow irrelevant because the president lacks the powers of congress? That notion is too plainly absurd to justify further refutation.
  5. The mere act of electing a president who openly supports marijuana legalization or other drug policy reform positions makes a devastatingly powerful statement about the potency of those political ideas. This is known as the concept of a "mandate," wherein the electorate's choice of a certain candidate, particularly when made decisively, is seen as a message to our political culture that this candidate's platform reflects the values of the American people. When marijuana reform is included in that package, it speaks to the tone of the political climate on that issue and sends a message to congress that their constituents are ready to see real changes considered in a serious way. 

All of these points, and I'm sure I missed several more, serve to illustrate why it is just stupid to even suggest that the president cannot serve as a powerful champion of marijuana legalization and other drug policy reforms. And yet, the assertions to which I respond here weren't leveled against the perceived front-runner in the republican primaries. All of these plainly farcical distortions of the president's power to influence national drug policy were directed at Ron Paul.

Ron Paul, though I know some will disagree or hope otherwise, is really a protest candidate, albeit a very popular and effective one. His goal is primarily to introduce into our political discourse ideas which he and his supporters feel have been unduly dismissed and disregarded by the political establishment. Ron Paul and his supporters already consider the campaign a success, because it's done exactly that.

His advocacy for the reform of marijuana laws ranks among the most popular aspects of his candidacy, resonating with his base of hardcore libertarian-minded supporters, while simultaneously piquing the interest of many on the left, who've been disgusted by Obama's brazen assault on medical marijuana. For anyone who cares about making long-term political progress on these issues, it makes absolute sense to cheer for the only candidate who is talking about it.

Publicly supporting politicians who publicly support marijuana reform is a necessary step towards demonstrating the political viability of the issue on a larger scale, so that future candidates for any elected office will have more reason to consider including this position in their platform. Simultaneously, the process of raising the profile of the debate over marijuana and other drug policy issues during a period of intense campaign season press coverage is an obvious and very effective way of marketing this idea to the public, increasingly support for it, and convincing future candidates to adopt it.

I really don’t know how much more completely one can misunderstand the significance of Ron Paul's marijuana advocacy than by arguing that it is pointless unless he A) gets elected President of the United States, and B) immediately legalizes marijuana throughout the nation. That is a standard so preposterous, so plainly unreasonable and bizarre, that, if taken seriously, it could call into question the importance of drug policy reform efforts in general. That's why I took this much time to respond, and why I hope Ron Paul's critics, regardless of their motives, will dispense with this particular brand of nonsense permanently.

Update: And, of course, there's also the president's power to pardon people for drug crimes. The president can just send anyone home from jail and erase their charges. That's kind if a big deal, yes?

(This article was published by'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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That too.

Ron Paul: Idealogically pure and tough as nails

ron paul marijuana vs historian newt gingrich marijuana

Ron Paul is especially educated as a doctor and a congressman on the both the medical uses of marijuana and the weasely ways of our federal government.. I'm certain he has watched the majority of his fellow congressmen and women wallow in the cesspool of debasement of  their own ideas for a little friendly cash from the private sector. Years of his life spent contemplating what needs to be done to fix this country versus most of his associates contemplating how to exploit their position, their contacts and their insider knowledge to trade stocks, take kickbacks, and get fat jobs in the private sectors in the revolving doors of wall street is what separates Dr. Paul from his brethren.

It rapidly becomes apparent when watching Newt Gingrich discuss legalizing marijuana just how low the man will stoop and how much of his own knowledge of historical facts he will lie about just to appease and pander to the drug warriors.  see this youtube clip for the whole thing.

The heart of his argument was 'our founding fathers, like Washington and Jefferson would have come down hard on anyone growing marijuna!" a particular stupid statement from a history professor with a doctorate from Tulane.

Ron Paul on the other hand is able to look at the scientific evidence and the social harms the prohibition has caused and state the real solution to this problem is to remove the laws that are causing the problem, namely the federal drug laws. If one man can see the solution and become president, I am certain he will find a way to change the laws. He  will not be a corrupt crony politician who smoked marijuana in private life, but becomes a drug warrior  in public life, like Clinton, Bush and Obama among probably a horde of others.

Ron Paul has integrity, knowledge and is honest, all things we don't normally get in a President. Isn't it time?

Drew B's picture

Great comment! 

Great comment! 

Thomas Jefferson / George Washington

I may be wrong, and haven't taken the time to look it up (sorry!) but I believe either Thomas Jefferson or George Washington - or both - grew hemp on their farms in Virginia.  Hemp was a very popular crop "back in the day."  I believe that both of them would see the folly of present day drug legislation against individual rights to decide whether or not to use marijuana.  Marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol - by far.

You Left Out One Major Point

The decision to place cannabis on the Controlled Substances Act Schedules at all, let alone as a Schedule 1 "narcotic" was Administrative, not Legislative. If one President's (Nixon's) henchmen can put cannabis "temporarily" into a Schedule 1 classification (awaiting the results of the Shafer Commission Report), what is to stop another President from directing his subordinates at ONDCP, DEA, and HHS to shift cannabis to Schedule 3 or even off-schedule entirely. -------- Any fair-minded President need only issue a Presidential Order to his administration to codify such an action. Granted, some follow-up legislation would need to follow at both the Federal and State level to equalization, as well as modifying various treaty obligations. A prime example, from Bolivia, is President Evo Morales' decision to withdraw from the UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics in order to amend Bolivia's laws that would allow coca plant production for use by their indigenous people, a custom thousands of years old. -------- Thus far, 2 separate DEA Administrative Law Judges have made official recommendations to remove cannabis from the CSA Schedules altogether, effectively completely decriminalizing this plant, but the DEA has refused to comply. The USA government itself has been issued a patent on the medical use of cannabis, #6630507, which belies the official government position that cannabis "has no proven medical value". And at one point, there were over 20 USA medical patients that received Federally grown cannabis directly from ONDPC (from the late 1970's), now down to only a small handful of patients because of involuntary withdrawal from that program due to death. Presidents have had tremendous power since the Civil War, now even more so with the PATRIOT Act and subsequent police state enabling legislation.

2012 the year of reform


As the end of prohibition draws closer the actions of the prohibitionists become more desperate to the point where their ramblings become so incoherent and crazy that they actually serve to advance the end of the drug war.

Ron Paul might have some chance at office but the media really targeted him. They ignored him; Fox even said "we won't even talk about Ron Paul', till he took a lead in the polls, then they set on him. And they continually talk of other candidates more seriously who pole less consistently than him. It's an all out media campaign against him.

Ending prohibition is the most important issue under the sun and with Ron Paul and Gary Johnson running for president loudly supporting drug reform and ballot initiatives to legalize cannabis that actually have a chance of passing and elections in Mexico where the drug war is a huge issue, 2012 promises to be a big year for drug law reform.

Ron Paul has a better than just "some chance"

We the People CAN get him the nomination, all we have to do is decide to stop listening to the naysayers, tell our family and friends WHY we support him and point them to some of the videos of and about him so they will see he's the best one for the job in this batch of candidates.  Then give him our votes in the primaries and caucuses, and once we get him the nomination we WILL put him in the presidency.

But you're right about the media and how they try so hard to manipulate the voters away from some candidates and toward others.  Here's proof:

And here is just one of a long list of the best reasons for voting/caucusing for Ron Paul:

And here's another:

But don't stop with those, there are lots of informative videos on YouTube about Ron Paul; and lots that try to demonize him and put his policies down as "crazy", "fringe", "outlandish", "dangerous", they're wrong. 


"You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." — Charles Austin Beard, historian

Gary Johnson

Although I enjoyed your article it also irritates me. You are just like the rest of the media. You are speaking as if this is a two-party system. Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson is also running on that same platform. There are other good candidates out there if the media would just recognize that and give them a shot.
borden's picture

Sandy, we've extensively

Sandy, we've extensively covered Gary Johnson, since he was a governor in fact. But the piece Scott responded to was about Ron Paul. And for the moment it's Ron Paul who is getting attention for libertarian views in the Republican primary, and the Republican primary that is in the news. That's why Scott talked about Ron Paul.


from newsletter:

Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began. ... What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting. But they were paid off and the violence subsided.”

If he hates government, what would be wrong with the "blacks" privatizing the "welfare state?" Wouldn't that be a step in the right direction in terms of getting the fed jack boot off the job creators' necks and possible mitigate some of the caucasian losses in the war on Christmas?

"The president can pressure congress to implement sensible reforms..."

really? with this congress?

All this "set the prisoners free!" stuff is just bait. Paul's a pork-addicted (earmarks he rages so self-righteously against) religious fundamentalist/corporatist.


Thank god the whole thing is just a side show. My god, imagine your disappointment after the RP
inauguration and it's back to business as usual. You might feel as bad as all those saps that thought o'bummer was gonna close gitmo and ride herd on those animals on Wall St.

Barrack said he would direct federal LE to shitcan the medical marijuana raids designed to intimidate american voters in states that have passed compassionate use laws.

So was he just lying or does POTUS even have the authority (legal or moral) to stand up to the drug warriors, private prison investment boards, big alcohol/tobacco etc etc. Does Paul's commitment to drug reform trump his unshakable faith in big business and the free market solution??

My favorite is the pardoning of 1,000,000 non-violent drug offenders idea. It's the kind of thing that gives Frank Luntz an erection.

The ad will feature a wave of young brown men swamping into white god-fearing and right-thinking communities like a pot-head/gang banger tsunami.

paul's great (on 6 percent of everything) in a perfect world but if you want to change the game forget this Texan hustler, get out your checkbook and donate $200 to LEAP.

Just pray they've yet to be designated a terrorist org that you are providing material support to.

You're just plain wrong

You need to do some real research on Ron Paul instead of just regurgitating the attempted smears that come from those who are scared to death of losing their power because Ron Paul would be returning this union to Constitutional government and Constitutionally limited government doesn't allow any politician, corporatist, or talking head to gain power (or a monopoly) in the first place.  

Ron Paul doesn't want to be our "leader" he wants get government out of our way so we can lead ourselves.  He wants everyone to be free not just the elite.  And along with personal freedom, he wants to return economic freedom to all of us, as well as stopping the inflation of prices and taxes that are robbing us all blind, by ending the fed and restoring sound money (and that does NOT mean going back on the gold standard, do some research on that false claim, too).  He would save the government budget 1 trillion in his first year and have a balanced federal budget in his third year.  He would take no more in salary while in the WH than the average American annual income (a tad over $30,000) and forego the presidential pension just as he has never participated in the lucrative congressional pension plan.  He would strengthen our defense by ending all our foreign military engagements.  

What would any American NOT like about those goals?

Bad cop Good cop

I hope not,but to me Ron Paul is posing as the good Cop.

He is in the race to OVERSHADOW the real ones.

He is a political being,belongs to the system.They are all the same.

He's not a politician

He's a statesman.  Go look up the difference.

Legalize Marijuana

Just in case anyone hasn't realized it, we have become a force with political clout developing rather quickly. I personally want to know where every candidate stands on marijuana legalization - as it should be. Similarly, I hope to have a candidate to vote for that supports this issue of marijuana reform and legalization. If we knew where all the politicians stood on this clearly it would be all the better. These damn politicians have people brainwashed into believing that voting is some under the covers guessing game at manipulation. I WANT to vote for a candidate that has a stand on this issue in this election because it is important - very important. I believe that the marijuana legalization issue is the pivotal issue that can give Americans back some measure of control within their own Government.

Divide and conquer is the name of the game, and we should speak loud on the issue, not become divided over the details and candidates. Demanding reform from whomever gets into office is an imperative right now, and making lots of racket so whomever gets in there will know he will be held accountable on this issue. No American should ever be arrested or convicted for possessing or using marijuana ever again. We can make it so now. Vote your conscience make noise, and stand up for what you believe in. Don't let the smoke get in your eyes.

It's the Attorney General and the DEA

Have any of you actually read the Controlled Substances Act?  The power to add to, remove from, or change the schedules of controlled substances is granted to the Attorney General (in consultation with HHS).  The AG is part of the executive branch, appointed by and working for the president.  So, in theory, all the president has to do is instruct the AG to reschedule marijuana or remove it entirely, and that's it.  That of course assumes the president can control his AG, which doesn't appear to be the case these days.

The other complicating factor is that the AG has delegated this authority to the DEA.  So that old saying about just enforcing the laws doesn't apply to the DEA.  They both make and enforce the drug laws.  A bit of a conflict of interest if you ask me, but such is life.  Still, the president could instruct the DEA to accept one of the MANY petitions to reschedule cannabis.  

So the five things you mentioned are relevant, but more indirect approaches.  Involving Congress really isn't necessary when it comes to legalizing cannabis.  On the other hand, anything done by one president can easily be undone by another.

you did good till the end..

you did good till the end.. he is not a protest option he is the only option if we want change on more then just the cannabis!  he is for ending the fed, smaller gov, letting states decide how to handle "drugs", noninterevention, ... best we can get with this horse and pony show of a 1 party system.

What about rescheduling?

Couldn't Ron Paul tell his secretary of the HHS to reschedule cannabis? Also, couldn't Ron Paul tell the Justice Department to stop enforcing federal drug laws?

congress and the constitution

It's the states that amend the constitution; congress can only propose amendments to the states. That process can begin at the state level but traditionally has begun in congress.

The states must ratify any

The states must ratify any proposed amendment to the constitution; and the states can also propose or initiate amendments; but that has hardly ever happened except at the beginning.

President absolutely can lead us out of prohibition

FDR told those who wished to end alcohol prohibition to "make it impossible for me NOT to support you".  FDR knew he couldn't publicly lead the way.  Times have changed and two current presidential candidates are openly calling for an end to marijuana prohibition.  Ron Paul and Gary Johnson.  Will Obama come around by election time?  Not publicly, I think.  Can he control his District Attorneys?  We shall see.  Either way, I don't vote for any man who will lock me up for using cannabis.  Viva Sativa!

There's a reason they're afraid of Paul

Newt is about the scariest thing that could EVER happen to drug reform.

If that psycho gets in, prepare for a nazi police state that you could never dream of!!

I, myself, plan to shake it up in 2012 by voting RON PAUL!

Good points by Scott, but...

#1: "The president appoints the nation's top drug policy officials"-- that being the case, can Ron Paul get around appointing Republicans to those posts?  What about surveys claiming that the Republican base (and this guy runs as a Republican, right?) is 20 points more hostile to cannabis legalization than Democrats?  Where will Paul find Republicans to appoint who are willing to turn against the Party and all those "constituents" out there?

#5: "The mere act of electing a president who openly supports marijuana legalization or other drug policy reform positions makes a devastatingly powerful statement"-- true, but first how does he get the Republican nomination?

Now I'm not dismissing the idea that it's worth supporting Dr. Paul until the Republican Primary race is decided and then supporting a third party thing if indicated.  Arab Spring (2011) taught us that in these times surprising things can happen fast (remember Art Bell's "The Quickening"?), and there's good evidence (JAMA, January 11, 2012) that an Herb Spring (or Swing) is at hand!   What if August 2012 brought news of a 77% Majority for Legalization?  So I'll keep watching and decide at the last minute whether to "hold nose, vote Barry".

I think President Ron Paul would appoint

Judge Napolitano to the AG position, and later (after the drug war was ended and a justice has either retired or died) appoint him to the SCOTUS.  I would love to see him choose Gary Johnson for VP, but I don't know if that would be possible, now, with Gary having declared as a candidate under the LP banner.

And he gets the GOP nomination by getting the most delegates at the national convention, so get out there and vote for him in your State's primary or caucus, that's how he gets the State's delegates.  If you don't know how to do any of this go here, though it is directed at the Blue Republicans (Democrats who want to see him as president) it applies to anyone:

Also, get your family and friends to support him, too.

What could Ron Paul do? Let me tell you...

In 1970, Congress placed cannabis into Schedule I on the advice of Assistant Secretary of Health Roger O. Egeberg. His letter to Harley O. Staggers, Chairman of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, indicates that the classification was intended to be provisional:

Dear Mr. Chairman: In a prior communication, comments requested by your committee on the scientific aspects of the drug classification scheme incorporated in H.R. 18583 were provided. This communication is concerned with the proposed classification of marihuana.

It is presently classed in schedule I(C) along with its active constituents, the tetrahydrocannibinols and other psychotropic drugs.

Some question has been raised whether the use of the plant itself produces "severe psychological or physical dependence" as required by a schedule I or even schedule II criterion. Since there is still a considerable void in our knowledge of the plant and effects of the active drug contained in it, our recommendation is that marihuana be retained within schedule I at least until the completion of certain studies now underway to resolve the issue. If those studies make it appropriate for the Attorney General to change the placement of marihuana to a different schedule, he may do so in accordance with the authority provided under section 201 of the bill...

Sincerely yours, (signed) Roger O. Egeberg, M.D.[3]

The reference to "certain studies" is to the then-forthcoming National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. In 1972, the Commission released a report favoring decriminalization of cannabis. The Nixon administration took no action to implement the recommendation, however. 

All Ron Paul would have to do is instruct his AG to place it on Schedule III along with the other pharma cannabanoids.

I would vote for him

I would vote for any one that wanted to change marijuana laws

About OBAMA......

Well when obama had been asked about marijuana he said that he smoked once when he was younger meaning that smoking marijuana is non-addictive

All drugs cant be legalize it is very dangerous...

Well yeah good information what ron paul says ! Can only agree !

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