It’s safe to say we can recognize some of the more prominent and vocal politicians who continually put themselves out there in terms of cannabis support – Jared Polis (D-CO), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) – but what about the politicians from more conservative states and backgrounds? Recently, former senator Mike Gravel (D-AK) announced that he will be the new CEO for KUSH, a cannabis company for infused products, along with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who serves as CEO for Cannabis Sativa, an umbrella corporation associated with KUSH.
As we’re seeing politicians change their tune about cannabis in a big way, let’s take a closer look at some prominent elected officials who have the chance to make a difference for their state, their country, and for the better of the people.
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX)
Ron Paul, despite serving the Republican people in a state known for equating cannabis legalization with murder (jeez, Rick Perry, and here I thought you supported cannabis? Make up your mind!), has been quite outspoken about his feelings on the role of government and the effects of the War on Drugs:
“I think the federal war on drugs is a total failure. You can at least let sick people have marijuana because it’s helpful. But…the federal government is going in there and overriding state laws and putting people like that in prison…I fear the war on drugs because it undermines our civil liberties.”
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)
At first glance, Cory Booker (AKA “Super Mayor,” AKA “The Nicest Guy in New Jersey,” AKA “Lemme-lend-a-hand-Booker”) doesn’t seem like quite such a surprising candidate for this list until you consider the frosty climate towards cannabis in New Jersey. New Jersey legalized medical marijuana in 2008 but Governor Chris Christie has made acquiring medical marijuana, even for the most terminally ill patients, so difficult that many patients have actually moved out of New Jersey in search of a more canna-friendly state.
Booker, on the other hand, believes so fervently in the importance of medical marijuana that he co-sponsored a federal amendment to offer legal protection to medical patients in medical marijuana legal states. Talk about a political dreamboat candidate! Somebody promote this guy! (Oh wait, they did.)
Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
Everyone’s favorite notoriously-hardline-POW-Maverick-Republican-runner-up surprised us all in 2013 by advocating legalization during an Arizona town hall meeting, saying, “Maybe we should legalize. We’re certainly moving that way as far as marijuana is concerned. I respect the will of the people.”
The will of the Arizona voters is currently at 56% who favor legalization. McCain's daughter, Meghan, has also vocalized her support, saying that she smokes “occasionally” (although her opinion seems to have little to no influence on the senator).
Governor Peter Shumlin (D-VT)
Peter Shumlin is less surprising, perhaps, as a politician who supports cannabis – Vermont has always been a fairly liberal state and Governor Shumlin has already played a large role in that, having signed S. 17 in 2011, which authorized medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. His support may not be surprising, but his role in the potential legalization of cannabis in Vermont will be crucial.
Vermont does not allow for voter initiatives or referendums, which means that if legalization were to be proposed (as the governor has been hinting at while studying the effects of legalization in Colorado), voters would have no say and the decision would be entirely up to the lawmakers and, ultimately, the governor.
Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Representative Chris Van Hollen’s support for cannabis became apparent last year, during which Maryland was not only able to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, but also legalized medicinal cannabis with the support of Van Hollen, Representative Steny Hoyer, and Governor Martin O’Malley.
However, implementation of Maryland’s medical marijuana program has been hitting roadblocks and we’re going to need Rep. Van Hollen’s (as well as Rep. Hoyer and Governor O’Malley’s) continued support if Maryland is going to make good on the promise of access to medical cannabis.
Representative Allen Peake (R-GA)
Representative Allen Peake is easily the most unexpected cannabis supporter on this list, and that’s why he’s so important. Peake hails from Georgia, one of the deepest of deep southern states, he’s a Republican, and he’s a family man. It is quite possibly this last qualification that has made him such a strong convert for medical marijuana. He has watched many Georgia families with children suffering from seizure disorders who are unable to access the medicine they so desperately need.
Peake was instrumental in passing Georgia’s first and only restrictive medical marijuana bill, Haleigh’s Hope Act, but when it became apparent that patients could not procure medicine in the state of Georgia, the representative went a step further in introducing a new bill, House Bill 885, which would have expanded the current law and allowed the production and manufacturing of cannabis oil in state. When that bill was shot down by Governor Nathan Deal, Representative Peake proclaimed that he would risk federal prosecution to obtain cannabis oil from a legal state and bring it illegally across state lines to make sure that the families in Georgia would not needlessly suffer.
Somebody give that man a medal! If medical marijuana is ever truly implemented in Georgia, Representative Peake will have played an exceptional role in making it happen. We applaud your efforts, Peake — thank you for standing up for your constituents.
"Ron Paul, official Congressional photo portrait, 2007" by United States Congress – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons; "Cory Booker Senate" by Senate Democrats – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikipedia; "John McCain official portrait 2009" by United States Congress – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons; "Peter Shumlin 2012" by Community College of Vermont – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons; "Chris Van Hollen official portrait, 2010" by U.S. House of Representatives – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons; Allen Peake via allenpeake.com – "Allen Peake press conference banning texting while driving"