Q: My question is, how would you feel about having a referendum on the ballot to legalize marijuana in the United States. To tax it, control it, sell licenses to manufacture it, and put the drug cartels out of business in Mexico?
GINGRICH: Well, I would oppose it. First of all, we don’t do things by referendum in this country. Because we are a republic, not a democracy. It’s been a very conscious design by the founding fathers. Second, I personally would be opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I think it is one of those passing fads where people don’t think through the consequences. If you legalize marijuana, as far as the drug cartels go, does that mean you’re going to legalize cocaine, which is a major source of revenue. Are you going to legalize heroin? I think what we need is a much more effective strategy of eradicating drugs in the United States in order to cut the off money that goes to the drug cartels of Mexico. I’d rather try to find a way to minimize American drug use, not find a way to legalize it and make it acceptable. That’s just my personal bias.
But Gingrich didn’t always think referendums were so un-American. In July 1995, Newt Gingrich actually endorsed a national referendum on whether illegal drugs should be legalized, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported at the time:
It appears that Gingrich is either being a hypocrite or changing his views on the fundamental nature of American democracy. Additionally, many of Gingrich’s allies in the social conservative movement are happy to use referendums to suppress gay rights.