There has been a great deal of coverage in the cannabis sphere about how Donald Trump’s choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to be his running mate is bad for the cannabis legalization movement. But don’t let that fool you: He’s actually terrible. Simply put, the selection of Mike Pence to share the Republican ticket sends a number of distressing signals to anyone looking for a progressive approach to cannabis in a prospective Donald Trump administration.
Hoosier State Politics
Cannabis laws in Pence’s home state of Indiana remain stringent: According to NORML, Indiana still considers any amount of cannabis possession to be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.
As if that wasn’t enough, in July 2014 Pence voiced opposition to a draft of a bill in the Indiana State House that would have eased the charges of possession on cannabis to a Class C misdemeanor, citing the need for continued law enforcement on the issue,
I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties.
Mike Pence: Acquiescence to the Right
The Indiana governor’s selection as VP is meant primarily as an olive branch to the GOP – according to Donald Trump.
During his meandering 28-minute speech officially introducing Pence as his running mate, Trump admitted to party unity being a primary factor in his decision to pick Pence.
If you look at one of the big reasons that I chose Mike – and, one of hte reasons is party unity, I have to be honest…So many people have said, ‘party unity.’ Because I’m an outsider. I don’t want to be an outsider.
Unlike their Democratic counterparts, the Republican Party platform remains less than progressive on the cannabis issue: The party refused to endorse even medical cannabis, with delegates instead falling back on tired cliches regarding law enforcement and the dangers of cannabis.
Trump’s selection of Pence indicates that he intends to toe the party line on a number of issues, with cannabis liberalization likely to be one of them. (Then again if it’s any consolation, reports indicate that Trump was less than thrilled about his own pick and looked to dump Pence mere hours after picking him.)
Attorney General Chris Christie
Donald Trump’s decision on a running mate was the conclusion of a months-long process that came down to two names: Mike Pence and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
During the primaries, Christie distinguished himself as the most stridently anti-cannabis in the GOP field. In a field that included conservatives as diverse as Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Rick Perry, he was the only candidate to advocate for cracking down on states that have legalized recreational cannabis.
In an interview last year with radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Christie signaled that he carries a negative view of cannabis:
Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have an enormous addiction problem in this country. And we need to send a very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. And the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.
If Trump had selected a VP Christie, it would have sidelined one of the most anti-cannabis politicians in the GOP to a position of relative political impotence that is derided for its powerlessness – even by those who have held the office.
Instead, the position most equipped to implement government progress on the issue may be filled by the guy most likely to stand athwart that very progress.
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