VA GOP Candidate for Governor Talks Legalization of Pot
Proponents of marijuana legalization have an unlikely ally in Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The Tea Party favorite is starting to sound like Open Society Institute founder George Soros. Is that a good thing?
Cuccinelli who's running for governor in 2014 says his views on legalizing pot are "evolving." The revelation came during a talk he gave to a political science class at the University of Virginia. When a student asked Cuccinelli what he thought about decriminalizing marijuana use the attorney general's response got a surprised reaction from the assembly as well as the host Professor Larry Sabato.
"I don't have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing I think that's the role of states," Cuccinelli said.
Sabato, the well known political analyst, who invited Cuccinelli to speak, couldn't believe what he had heard.
"Frankly if people hear that whole answer, it may change his image somewhat. It was not stick-in-the-mud, that's for sure," said Sabato. "It was suggestive of a willingness to change marijuana policies in Virginia eventually."
While Cuccinelli holds personal conservative convictions on any number of issues he almost always prefers states to make the final call. Another example? Gay marriage.
In a 2011 interview, Cuccinelli told me he is personally opposed to same-sex marriage, but save for a constitutional amendment, believes it should not be banned by the federal government.
"Frankly, I think it is worth some consideration for the things that aren't reached by the federal constitution to just leave it to each state," he said.
Compare Cuccinelli's deference to states' rights to Soros' statement in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2010 after he poured millions into the push for legalization in California. Looks like both men are on the same page.
Soros: Just as the process of repealing national alcohol prohibition began with individual states repealing their own prohibition laws, so individual states must now take the initiative with respect to repealing marijuana prohibition law.
Invoking states' rights on legalization not only appeals to the Left, Libertarians, liberal Republicans and two-thirds of those under 29, but this proposal has the potential to wear down Tea Party conservatives who, like Sarah Palin, see recreational usage of marijuana as a "minimal problem" in relation to other social ills.
That's the trouble with arguing the pros and cons of smoking pot. Non-profits funded by Soros and his friend Progressive Insurance Chairman Peter Lewis have done a great job minimizing pot's potential for harm. No doubt substance abuse counselors, teachers, parents and clergy could tell some disturbing stories of burned-out Dads, Moms, students and professionals whose families have suffered because of their regular marijuana use. But because alcohol, which can be just as harmful, is legal, taxed and regulated it's a hard sell for legalization's opponents.
The better option is to broaden the discussion away from legalization to the subject of recreational mind-altering drugs and their effects on the individual. If Cuccinelli had responded on whether smoking weed or using any drug including alcohol was positive or negative when it comes to raising a family or getting a law or medical degree it could have sparked a more lively conversation.
Instead he tried to score political points to get the stoner vote.
Cuccinelli's evolving sensibilities on key liberal issues make it clear Republican office seekers, even staunch conservatives, feel compelled to follow Karl Rove's lead away from the hardliners toward finding common ground with Democrats. Will pandering to young people, 60% of whom want to see marijuana legalized do the trick?
If pols like Cuccinelli sound liberal and align with far left guys like Soros on certain issues will their Tea Party supporters vote for them? What about liberal 20-somethings who have sworn they will never vote for a Republican. Will the 'R' beside a name in the ballot box suddenly seem less threatening if they know they can go home, hit the basement and smoke some weed?
Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report