Paul goes where few in old GOP have been, accepts campaign donations from pot industry
Kentucky New Era
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is not ready to say if he would vote to legalize recreational marijuana at the state level. “I think I see it just more from a federal perspective,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday at a marijuana industry meeting in Denver. “And I think the federal government ought to stay out.”
Paul has become the first major-party presidential candidate to publicly court the legalized marijuana industry, The Associated Press reported. He planned a fundraiser this week at the Cannabis Business Summit. Tickets were $2,700.
It’s not surprising that Paul — whose libertarian principles appeal to many voters who place a premium on personal freedom — would draw a distinction between the roles of state and federal government when deciding if marijuana should be legalized. What is surprising is his willingness to accept campaign money from the industry. Although Colorado, Washington state, Alaska, the District of Columbia, and now Oregon, have legalized marijuana, it is still a controversial topic. It is highly unlikely Kentucky will legalize marijuana anytime in the near the future.
As a presidential candidate in the primaries, Paul must appeal to a broad electorate of conservative voters — and for that reason — his decision to dive into the cannabis industry for campaign money might not be a political liability.
We’re more interested in what his decision reveals about politics and the Republican Party in 2015.
This ain’t your granddaddy’s GOP.
Ten years ago — and maybe even more recently — it would have been difficult to imagine a Republican candidate for president landing in a marijuana convention. Things have changed quickly. In terms of philosophy and policy, the Republican Party is much more diverse than it was just a few years ago. A hard push to the right, initiated in part by the Tea Party’s rise after the 2008 presidential election, eventually resulted in more flavors of Republican opinion.
The middle ground of the GOP, sometimes referred to as chamber of commerce or country club Republicans, is now flanked on one side by party members who are socially moderate or liberal but fiscally conservative and those on the other side who are more strictly conservative on social and fiscal policies.
The fact that Paul is seeking campaign money from the marijuana industry is one indication the party is more diverse and less predictable. He’s taken other positions that were not traditionally associated with the GOP. He was one of the first in his party to call on police to curtail military-style tactics in dealing with civilians. He was also the only Republican among likely presidential candidates who agreed with President Obama’s plan to begin normalizing relations with Cuba.
There was a time when Democrats claimed to be the party big enough for a wide range of opinions. Increasingly, it seems the Republican Party can say this as well.
Paul won’t gain much in Kentucky by aligning with the marijuana industry — and we don’t support legalization — but he continues to make the large field of GOP hopefuls more interesting for anyone who appreciates a Republican Party that’s growing and changing.