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The Haymaker: Solving the Roger Stone Dilemma

June 22, 2017
Roger Stone: Good or bad for the legalization movement? (Seth Wenig/AP)
Editor’s note: ‘The Haymaker’ is Leafly Deputy Editor Bruce Barcott’s weekly column on cannabis politics and culture.

What do you do when the devil adopts your cause?

Okay, Roger Stone is not literally Satan. But still...

That dilemma confronted me recently when Roger Stone, the notorious political trickster and longtime Trump advisor, formed a cannabis legalization advocacy group called the US Cannabis Coalition (USCC).

OK, Roger Stone is not literally Satan. He’s more like the Jason Sudeikis devil on “Weekend Update,” all red plastic horns and cape. He’ll smile and charm you and chuckle ruefully. Oh yeah! Good times. I’m a naughty stinker, I am.

"I'm the Devil but I'm not a monster!"

“I’m the Devil but I’m not a monster!”

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Roger Stone carries out dirty political ops that sit two bus transfers away from the nearest ethical boundary. I’m not saying that. Roger Stone is saying that.

This is a man who boasts of turning his first political dirty trick in elementary school in 1960. An ardent John F. Kennedy supporter, he “remember[s] going through the cafeteria line and telling every kid that Nixon was in favor of school on Saturdays.” After converting to conservatism, he became Nixon’s go-to political ratfucker, sabotaging would-be rivals by, as he put it, “trafficking in the black arts.”

Nixon’s paranoid, score-settling style so entranced him that Stone had Nixon’s crooked visage inked on his back. You may think I’m speaking metaphorically. I am not.

That's not henna, my friends.

That’s not henna, my friend.

Stone has been one of Donald Trump’s closest advisors since the late 1970s, when the two were brought together, fittingly, by the political fixer Roy Cohn. About whom, see under: Angels in America, McCarthyism, and Dark Arts (Past Practitioners Of). When WikiLeaks posted the hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager last year, Stone boast-tweeted his “backchannel” connections to Julian Assange. Wink, nudge.

In the recently released documentary Get Me Roger Stone, the eponymous subject embraces his villainy: “It’s better to be infamous,” he says, “than never to be famous at all.”

Legalization supporters hail from all points on the political spectrum. Two of the movement’s greatest champions are Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (hard-right Orange County conservative) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (hard-left Portlandia character).

The problem with Roger Stone isn’t the team he plays for. It’s the dirty way he plays. So imagine my surprise when I found him cheering in the bleachers alongside me last week, wearing the jersey and cap of my beloved squad, all but high-fiving me after a home run.

“We have the ability legally to lobby, but [USCC is] really grassroots mobilization to remind the president to keep his pledge” to uphold states rights when it comes to cannabis, Stone told Leafly contributor Ed Muerrieta last week.

What to do? Reject his support, or embrace it?

I did some research and some thinking.

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Let’s Make a Deal

Over the past 20 years American politics has seemingly turned into an all-or-nothing game. The point nowadays seems to be the complete and utter destruction of the opposition. No position is too extreme. Negotiation itself seems impossible in a time when compromise has become synonymous with betrayal—and electoral defeat.

One model: the conservative Koch brothers working with liberals on sentencing reform.

But there are moments when the old notion of politics as the art of the possible still holds. It most often happens at the local level but it also exists here and there in the national game too.

Case in point: The billionaire Koch brothers, widely loathed in liberal America, have made common cause in recent years with the sentencing reform movement. Most of those working to end America’s over-incarceration crisis come from the left side of the spectrum, but they’ve found a way to work with right-siders like David and Charles Koch (who describe themselves as libertarians), and other “smart on crime” conservatives in order to advance a common agenda. Likewise, the Kochs and other conservatives have averted their eyes to the many odious policies beloved by liberal reformers in order to get the job done.

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Call it the Dirksen Rule

That “strange bedfellows” dynamic has a proud history in American politics. To pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Johnson had to overcome the opposition of Southern Democrats and conservative Republicans.

'You drink with Dirksen! You talk with Dirksen! You listen to Dirksen!'
President Lyndon Johnson, giving orders to Sen. Hubert Humphrey

The President instructed his chief Democratic ally, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, to pal up with Everett Dirksen, the Senate Republican Leader.

Dirksen, a rumpled and blustery conservative, may well have been the devil in the eyes of Humphrey, the very model of a reserved Minnesota liberal. As the legal historian Michael O’Donnell recounted in The Atlantic a few years ago, President Johnson gave Humphrey clear marching orders:

“You’ve got to spend time with Ev Dirksen. You’ve got to let him have a piece of the action. He’s got to look good all the time. Don’t let those [liberal] bomb throwers, now, talk you out of seeing Dirksen. You get in there to see Dirksen. You drink with Dirksen! You talk with Dirksen! You listen to Dirksen!”

Johnson cut deals to get votes from good ol’ boys in Texas. He strong-armed some senators and sweet-talked others. O’Donnell wrote that Johnson “engaged an army of lieutenants—businessmen, civil-rights leaders, labor officials, journalists, and allies on the Hill—to go out and find votes.” He told one labor leader to “talk to every human being you [can].”

That army of lieutenants wasn’t rostered with angels. A lot of them disagreed with Johnson’s positions. Many distrusted the man. Some of them probably hated his guts. But they agreed on one thing—passing the Civil Rights Act—and that’s all that mattered.

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Stone is Human; Let’s Talk

I don’t know much about Roger Stone’s new group. It may be just an astroturf lobbying front. But I do know he’s signed up a group of advisors that includes Florida attorney and medical marijuana activist John Morgan (a potential Democratic candidate for governor), the conservative Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, and Tyler Nixon, a Denver marijuana lawyer and great nephew of—yes, Richard Nixon.

Those are folks who, like Roger Stone, have some juice in national media and politics. I probably disagree with 90% of their political opinions. But I’m going to work together with them—and with Stone—on this issue. Because Lyndon Johnson was right. You talk to every human being you can.

Related

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Bruce Barcott's Bio Image

Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

View Bruce Barcott's articles

  • Fester

    Take the support but he’s still a giant piece of shit.

  • Weston of Mass Destruction

    Thank you, my friend, for this article. Hopefully you’ll sway some opinions on your direction. I made a similar, but not-so-articulate, comment on “The Hill” website when this was announced last weekish.

    Once people see that common ground can be had, it opens the door to other opportunities. I don’t know Roger Stone personally, but I do know that when you have a chance to get out of the crowd and speak to someone on a personal basis, you see that they’re human, usually likable and that you just have different opinions.

    On a side note: as dorky as Stone looks, that dude is pretty big. Look how wide his back is and you can tell it’s not fat. Smh.

    • Deb Kelly

      I could care less about how buff he is and more about his trustworthiness. He’s a snake in the grass.

      • Weston of Mass Destruction

        That wasn’t even the point of my comment. Is that all you saw? Also, I believe the phrase you want is, “I could NOT care less”.

        “Snake in grass”, you say? How is that different than any other politician on all sides of the political spectrum? My point is that it’s healthy to find common ground with someone and it’s taxing on your well being to only see the negatives about people.

        Like it or not, this guy has connections in the right places. Just because he’s recently been vocal about his support doesn’t mean he hasn’t financially contributed in the past.

        I remember when NORML was about the only widely-known organization for this subject. Were they telling others not to join the fight just because they came in after they did the initial leg work? No. They welcome them.

        It amazes me how intolerant the tolerant-left can be. Open your arms and heart to people of all persuasions. Its a good feeling to find a common cause.

        • stewdad11

          Right on!

        • Deb Kelly

          Yea, Stone sure has connections in the right places alt right! He is now one of four key targets in Mueller’s Investigation into Russia’s connection in our 2016 US Presidential election, along with Manafort, Flynn and Page. Hey, if you trust the guy, that’s your choice. Personally, I COULD CARE LESS if Stone supports the legalization of Cannabis, in any capacity.

  • cinderabi

    Actually, its all about money money money with these guys because the conservative mindset goes hand in hand with the acquisition of funds, no matter where they come from or what the other side may think about how they get made. I am so far from the conservative mindset on most all levels that i find myself actually standing right next to it because moving further and further left gets u right back to the right in a full circle that is inevitable. Right now I need to make enough money to get out of the “mid-Atlantic” region (used to be called the northeast but not any more, I guess) and return home to the comparable sanity of the west coast, so i have invested in a couple of bio-med companies that are doing great research in the cannafield as well as in grow-lands and greenhouses. I am getting my leads on these stocks from some of the nastiest conservatives on the planet, but hay…. if it gets me out of here and back to where i once belonged i am not adverse to following their lead. Because you better believe THEY are all investing in this new industry right now, and they know how to make $$$. So put a pair of red plastic horns on my head as well, because as much as i really hate these guys for their selfish and greedy ways, they know how to get rich, and nothing is going to get me out of this miserable, repressive part of the country and back home to the free states of the pacific coast like money. Call me a two-faced traitor, but sometimes u gotta do what u gotta do and follow the lead of those who know how to do it. Just remember, however, when making deals with the devil, don’t put ur soul on the table and become one of them. If there is money to be made investing in this new and exciting industry, and I make more than enough to make my transition back home easy breezy, I will definitely share what I have with the causes these greedy no-good money mongers are taking away from us on sooooo many other fronts. In the meantime, however, i am playing their game with wall street.

    • Gary Craig

      I have no choice but to stay where I am. If I had the capital to move I’d move, in a heartbeat, from Maryland to Colorado, or Washington State, or Oregon. I’m still waiting on Maryland to get its mmj up an running. I mean it’s only been 3-1/2 years. Elect a Republican and this is what you get; constant delays.

      • cinderabi

        My heart is here, it is where I was born and raised. But my spirit is in the Northwest, where I lived a wonderfully free-spirited yet totally responsible life for 40 years. I have tried to adjust to living back here again, but even though there are wonderful people here, and my life is still relatively easy and stress free compared to so many other people’s, I feel like there is a weight on my shoulders that’s always bringing my energy level way way down, like how it feels a hot humid summer day when you want to do something active but you just plain can’t move. I can feel the repression that exists here right into my bone marrow, so much of it created by the hot seat of government that lies just south of my city. It is stifling.
        I was just back in WA state to visit friends, family for a week in March. When I got back I felt like I had taken a trip into the future but when I returned to the present it felt like the past. I hope you find a way to move out west. It could be a long wait before there is anything offered here like what you can get out there… and I am not just speaking cannabis… I’m talking lifestyle, attitude, a general well being of the mind and soul. And progress… beautiful forward thinking, cutting edge innovation where anything is possible if you can think it. And last but not least, love… for one other, for the other life forms we share the planet with, for the planet itself: I want to spend the last decade(s) of my life in that environment, not hunkering down inside the dome of doom, here in the sad and mad mid Atlantic waiting to get sick and die. The “Free States” are where life is happening, and that’s where I want to be. I am not financially well off either… but i am determined to have a better time in my twilite years than what is offered here, so i am finding ways to make that happen.
        Good luck & God bless.

        • Gary Craig

          I would like for Maryland to even gets it mmj up and running. I’d still have to get a “recommendation” from a dr, no guarantee there. I’d be the person with qualifying conditions but won’t be able to get a recommendation. It would be so much easier if it were just legalized. Hopefully in the future, if I ever do get any cannabis, I won’t have to sneak to do any. That’s what it’s still like here. As far as moving, well, that ain’t happening. Now or anytime.

          • John David Chadwell

            Michigan is your place then, easy to get your cannameds and no hassles bout it. You can grow your favs in your own yard. As good as it gets. So head up, breath deep, exhale, and feel better because it is better, in the great MIDWEST !!!

    • Edward Barton

      You hate people for making money off of Cannabis or just because they are conservatives? I thought investment was a good thing for the industry. I don’t get where you think people are stealing money that is yours. Sounds like you should be more angry about taxes taking your money if you can afford to move across the country. Not many people have the ability to move so you should consider yourself lucky…you’re in the best country in the world to live in!.

      • cinderabi

        ARRRGGGHHH! Noooooooooooooooooo………………… You totally misunderstand me! I don’t hate ANYONE! I hate REPRESSION! I hate small-mindedness… I hate HATE! I am not well off by any means. I am selling everything I own practically just so I can do this one last thing for myself before I check out of this crazy planet for whatever lies beyond our existence here. All I am saying is that by investing in this new industry, especially in the bio-med field where incredible progress is being made with the plant in question to help folks with all kinds of illness: mental, physical, emotional… I will have a better chance of reaching my goal and living a far more free lifestyle during my remaining years. No, the hatred is not within me. Frustration maybe… sadness because I see it within so many other members of the human condition… like you, for instance… because you seem so very, very angry… Please chill. And as far as living in the “best country in the world”… well… that opinion, my friend, is relative to one’s personal experience and what one has witnessed by traveling to other parts of the world and xperiencing other lifestyles and atttudes and cultures beyond the walls (both virtual and the one they want to build here) of confinement to the what is familiar.

    • stewdad11

      I like the way you think bud! Wish I could work for you! I live In the Northeast to and hate it!

  • Deb Kelly

    Somewhat encouraging, but I still wouldn’t trust the little traitor. He talks out of both sides of his mouth.

    • Edward Barton

      How is he a traitor? Put your money where your mouth is and give an example because I don’t trust that you know a lick about what you’re talking about. Roger Stone is a patriotic American who has served and is continuing to serve the U.S.

      • Deb Kelly

        A patriotic American you say? Um…well that certainly is up for debate Edward. You see, Roger Stone, is a Trump friend and supporter who openly engaged with hackers known as Guccifer 2.0 which US Intelligence says was an online persona created as a cover for Russian Intelligence agents. Remember, there is an ongoing FBI Investigation led my Mueller into the Russian connection of Trump campaign officials and supporters to the thwarting of the 2016 US Presidential election to get Trump elected. Roger Stone is a key Mueller target in this Investigation as a key Trump associate along with Manafort, Flynn and Page. Of course, Stone denies collusion, but I doubt Mueller would waste his time on him as one of four ket targets if there wasn’t enough meat on the bone. Perhaps you need to read more on the subject before you accuse others of “not knowing a lick”.

  • Savior of the Golden Goddesses

    The dirtiest person in politics would more likely be the rapist bill Clinton or his wife Hillary who laughed about having got a child molestor off… Yeach! This author must be one of those bed wetting social justice warriors still crying about Trump kicking his little bottom. Roger Stone is as honorable as it gets and a best selling author…. Leafly can lick my balls…. Why don’t you just go get yourself some playdough and a coloring book and find a safe space for losers.

    • Weston of Mass Destruction

      As long as you know going in to it that Leafly will most likely be on the left side of most political topics, they are pretty well-written articles that offer a different perspective for some.

      I find it obvious that the author doesn’t care for Mr Stone and I assume he’s going to be a “progressive” liberal on just about anything that’s associated with politics; however, I have respect for a guy that is saying something that is unpopular with his cohorts.

      Though there’s a possibility the author voted for Clinton, he seems intelligent enough that he’s not a true supporter. I don’t think anyone really supports her, they just didn’t want to see Trump win. I’m gonna go out on a limb and peg this author as a Bernie or Jill Stine guy. Again, just another assumption that I could be wrong about.

      Either way, we need all the help we can get with the legalization of cannabis. Sure, Roger Stone is fairly well known for dirty tricks, but, ironically enough, he’s honest about it.

      I like that Trump was in favor of states’ rights in this matter. I’d love to see him be the guy to do it. I’m sure the ultra libs will find something to complain about if he makes it happen, but we already know that’s how a lot of them act.

      • Edward Barton

        Stone is satan!! Haven’t heard that before! LAMESTREAM MEDIA. INFOWARS.COM

  • Greg Hale

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a805039237c4aa296d28479ad2e89b5946a226191e93e2d3e1d3d6c38d904111.jpg If Roger Stone and his USCC can help win any part of the the battle to de-demonize and de-schedule cannabis and protect states from Federal harassment and/or legalize on federal level…..I think we’d all be happy with even one of those successes. The fight against the drug war comes from all angles. Even Law enforcement officers have a group (LEAP) to end cannabis prohibition. Stone’s potential to help far outweighs what possible harm he could bring to the movement. This movement has too much legislative, medical, social and cultural inertia to be negatively affected by one man like Roger Stone….or
    even Jeff Sessions.

    • Edward Barton

      Can you think of possible harm he could bring to the movement? I can’t. Stone has for a long time been an outspoken supporter of legalization, and it is like Leafly thinks his Cannabis Coalition came out of nowhere.

      • Weston of Mass Destruction

        It’s pretty messed up how once a certain political side takes up a cause, they want to keep it as their baby and prevent the other side from joining in and possibly taking any credit for its success. It’s rather unfortunate to see people so married to their political party that they automatically see people with different ideas as the enemy. The religious right use to strike me as being more intolerant, but it seems to me that the pendulum has swung.

  • Rick Sizemore

    I would not trust anyone connected to TRUMP .

    • Edward Barton

      Why? Because you are a partisan hack?

  • julioinglasses

    Thumbs up!

  • Franklin

    Most politicians are dirty. That doesn’t change the fact that we have to work with them in order to get things done. Stone is one of thousands of people who do the same things creating negative campaigns. Try to find a successful politician who doesn’t have someone like Stone on their staff. It’s not optional. Roger Stone is just the first to be really open about negative campaigning. No one owns the cannabis movement. He is welcome. But, how is Kevin Sabet any better? People like Mel Sembler on the other side have been doing nothing but telling lies and smearing the cannabis plant for 40 years. We do need people who the final holdouts on the plant might listen to.

    You see the “Ohio Monopoly” sort of people get distracted by these things. For those who don’t follow, Ohio was confused out of legal marijuana in 2015 by the word “monopoly”. Many cannabis supporters voted against the measure over a few details. They thought they were leading a national movement against monopolies. All talk of the word ended that day of the election and the state of Ohio created their own monopoly, smacked the citizens in the face and told them to be smarter about getting distracted next time. The United States was allied with the Soviet Union in WW2. You put differences aside to win.