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Newt Gingrich Clear on Opposition to Medical Marijuana


Cult excitement often accompanies those who rail against the status quo.  Maintaining one’s principles in the face of a disagreeing majority can be quite difficult.  In politics, it seems that candidates often champion this idea.  Then they can acquire nicknames like “maverick” and “cowboy” if voters are convinced they are not scared to take a hard stand.  However, ignoring the wishes of the majority may not be a prudent choice when seeking public office.

Newt Gingrich has seen a rise in the polls lately as he attempts the long journey toward the United States presidency.  Mr. Gingrich has used the reliable justification for his current stance on medical marijuana, the children.  He was recently quoted as saying “What has changed was the number of parents I met with who said they did not want their children to get the signal from the government that it was acceptable behavior.”  He also went on to call medical marijuana in California “a joke” and went even further to call medical marijuana a convenience.  Thousands of patients would likely respond by saying there is nothing “convenient” about debilitating conditions that are relieved by marijuana.  Gingrich also went on to say he was seeking stricter penalties for marijuana users and that he would like the government to take a more aggressive stance in marijuana enforcement.  This obviously is in contrast with the rest of Americans and recent polls show approximately 80% of the country supports medical marijuana.  Additionally, most of the GOP is seeking to reduce our nation’s debt and save money where possible.  Directing additional tax dollars toward the war on drugs may be hard to sell to the American people.

Mr. Gingrich also went on to applaud Singapore’s harsh legal system.  Such praise could result in a political backfire.  Much of the world has pleaded for Singapore to alter their harsh stance on law enforcement.  Under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, marijuana possession of 500 grams requires use of the death penalty.   In 1994 former President Bill Clinton tried to negotiate a lighter sentence for 18 year old American Michael Fay when he was convicted of vandalism while in Singapore.  Fay received six bamboo cane strikes and served four months in jail.  Gingrich has also recently said, in regards to Singapore that, “They’ve been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country.”  He also stated that he would execute members of the Mexican drug cartel.  Members of the Mexican drug cartel certainly do not deserve any sympathy , but perhaps that violent line of thinking has not served our country well in the 40 year war on drugs.  Instead of more gunfire many Americans now want to phase the cartel out by regulation and decriminalization, in turn making their function obsolete.  Cartel members can still be tried in court and face whatever penalties are appropriate.  Newt Gingrich’s recent comments on medical marijuana come as a surprise to many political analysts.  During the 1980’s, he wrote a letter that supported the use of medical marijuana in the March 19, 1982 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.  The following paragraph is an exact quote from his letter and is in stark contrast with his recent statements:

“We believe licensed physicians are competent to employ marijuana, and patients have a right to obtain marijuana legally, under medical supervision, from a regulated source. The medical prohibition does not prevent seriously ill patients from employing marijuana; it simply deprives them of medical supervision and denies them access to a regulated medical substance. Physicians are often forced to choose between their ethical responsibilities to the patient and their legal liabilities to federal bureaucrats.”  There does not seem to be any praise for draconian laws here and he certainly no mention of him viewing medical marijuana as a joke.  Click here for the full letter

Newt Gingrich’s timing for his policy shifts is baffling.  When the momentum for medical marijuana was very low he was supportive and now that the country overwhelmingly supports it he has changed his stance.  The only comparable situation is the behavior of a child who is just trying to be difficult.  Is Newt Gingrich just trying to gauge the American public and take the opposite stand?  As a veteran of the American political landscape there must be some other reason.  His behavior seems politically motivated and perhaps even strategic against Mitt Romney.  Many believe that Mitt Romney will ultimately win the Republican nomination for 2012.  However, former Governor Romney’s perceived weakness pertains to his popularity with ultra conservatives.  Whatever the rationale is for his position change on medical marijuana, it is clear that part of his strategy is definitely aimed at painting Mitt Romney as too moderate.  At a recent town hall meeting Mr. Gingrich went out of his way to mention that he was more conservative than Mitt Romney.   The primaries usually see candidates reach to the far left or right wing in order to shore up support, then gradually inch their way back toward the middle of the political spectrum.  Newt Gingrich may have to stand behind these harsh and possibly very unpopular views of medical marijuana.  If that is the case many libertarians, economists, and independent voters may be turned off to his candidacy.  Backing off these statements may not sit well with his conservative base, a group he may ultimately need on his journey toward the presidency.

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