GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan does not have a history of supporting medical marijuana, or even of tolerating state laws which embrace permitting access to medical cannabis. Ryan voted in 1999 to block medical marijuana in DC (which is now legal). And, in 2006, he voted against a bill that would prevent the Justice Department and DEA from going after medical marijuana users who complied with state laws.
Yet when the GOP candidate traveled to Colorado on Friday, an important swing state where medical cannabis is already legal and a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana outright appears likely to pass, he suddenly embraced an entirely new position. In an interview with Colorado Springs television station KRDO, Ryan claimed that medical marijuana should be wholly legal in states that permit it:
I asked Congressman Ryan: “In Colorado we have medical marijuana. Under a Romney Ryan ticket, what happens?”
Ryan: “It’s up to Coloradans to decide.”
I said: “So even if federal law says marijuana is illegal, you’re saying?”
Ryan: “My personal positions on this issue have been let the states decide what to do with these things. This is something that is not a high priority of ours as to whether or not we go down the road on this issue. What I’ve always believed is the states should decide. I personally don’t agree with it, but this is something Coloradans have to decide for themselves.”
Nearly three quarters of Americans agree with this position, but none of them are Ryan’s running mate. Mitt Romney promised to fight marijuana legalization “tooth and nail,” and he lost his cool with a Colorado reporter who asked him about the medical cannabis issue last May. So Ryan was forced to backtrack on Saturday, when a Ryan spokesperson claimed that Ryan “agrees with Mitt Romney that marijuana should never be legalized.”
In other words, Ryan woke up on Friday as a congressman with a firmly anti-marijuana voting record. He abandoned that view during a trip to a swing state where the marijuana issue is hot, and then backtracked the very next day. And he did this all in the very same weekend when he proclaimed that he did not vote for the defense cuts he recently voted for.
Apparently, Ryan’s factually challenged convention speech wasn’t an anomaly, it’s an entire campaign strategy.