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Tom Tancredo and the conservative case for smoking weed

If the GOP firebrand can agree to light up in support of freedom, marijuana proponents argue, what are Democrats waiting for?

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) wears a lot of hats — "zealous illegal immigration opponent, conservative firebrand, liberal's bogeyman," says John Ingold at The Denver Post. And now he's "vowed to do something that will add another title to his CV: Pot smoker." Tancredo says he will smoke his first joint not because he's into drugs — "I don't believe it is a 'benign' substance, and I don't want to encourage anyone to take it up," he tells The Washington Post — but because he's a man of his word. His word, it turns out, was captured on film by comedian Adam Hartle, who interviewed Tancredo about Colorado's marijuana-legalizing Amendment 64, before voters approved it. (Watch Tancredo make his pledge at about the 9:20 mark.)

"Look, I made a bet with the producer of the film that if Amendment 64 passed — I did not think it would — that I would smoke pot," Tancredo tells Fox News. "I will therefore smoke pot under circumstances we both agree are legal under Colorado law." But while he may not have expected the law to pass, he did actively campaign for it — on grounds that it was the conservative thing to do. 

"I am endorsing Amendment 64 not despite my conservative beliefs, but because of them," Tancredo wrote in an op-ed before the election. "Our nation is spending tens of billions of dollars annually in an attempt to prohibit adults from using a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol." In a radio ad, he was more explicit about the "nanny state" underpinnings of U.S. drug laws: "Proponents of big government have duped us into supporting a... prohibition of marijuana."

After Amendment 64 passed, he elaborated to the Denver Westword: "If you really believe what conservatives say they believe — in less government — this is a perfect way to express that belief. To say, 'I don't think the government has any right to tell me what I should ingest.'... I tell people all the time that the only bright spot in the whole election was the passage of 64, because now I can get high for the next four years — but I'm joking." Now, it's not clear who the joke is on.

"If Tom Tancredo can figure this out, why can't others, including a lot of elected Democratic officials," says John Cole at Balloon Juice. One of them, after all, "smoked pot and more and managed to become president. And no, I don't mean George Bush." Here's hoping that Obama, "who smoked more pot as a teenager than most people will in a lifetime," sees the light, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. So far, though, he's "laughed off the option of legalizing and taxing cannabis," and his DEA insists on classifying pot alongside heroin, ruling out any medical use.

This is bonkers. It seems to me that this administration should order a review of that classification as soon as possible; and that the next time our former hardcore stoner president arrives in Colorado, he might visit a legal dispensary and show his appreciation of Coloradan freedom. Or maybe — in my dreams — the next generation of Republicans will seize this issue against racist, wasteful and unnecessary government intrusion into our lives — and help win back a generation for limited government. [Daily Beast]

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