I attended CPAC the last two years and enjoyed it immensely but was unable to attend this year. CPAC opened in D.C this year on the same day D. C. legalized marijuana. Actually CPAC is not in D.C but across the river in National Harbor, Maryland, but that's close enough. To recognize the event of marijuana being legalized in our nations capitol, CPAC featured a panel discussion at 4:20 PM to discuss marijuana legalization.
CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, is the largest gathering of conservatives in the nation and nothing else comes close. It is to political conservative activist what the CMA convention is to hard core country music fans. All the contenders for the Republican Party's nomination for president appear and then there are other luminaries of the conservative movement such as popular governors, talk show host and authors. There are panel discussion on various topics. There are academic-type presentations on theoretical philosophical concepts and there is the exhibition hall where about two hundred organizations promote their product or cause. There are movies with conservative themes, and music. Several things are going on at any given time. And, there is the opportunity to talk and socialize with like-minded people from across the nation.
I watched several of the CPAC speeches on CSPAN and while I am almost sure that a candidate's position on marijuana legalization will not be a deal-breaker for most conservatives, I was pleased to see it was an issue that was addressed. Senator Ted Cruz said, “I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called 'the laboratories of democracy'. If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.” (link) Other candidates took a similar position. I have heard of no prominent Republican elected official taking a hard line anti-marijuana position.
Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor and former Libertarian candidate for president took the strongest pro-pot position of anyone speaking at CPAC. Sitting on a panel discussion, when an anti-pot speaker said marijuana could cause heart attacks, Governor Johnson fell out of his chair and faked a heart attack. It is fun. Watch the video.
Other reports from CPAC indicate that the proponents of legalization exhibited more enthusiasm than the proponents of the status quo. Also there were several exhibitors in the exhibition hall promoting drug sentencing reform, medical marijuana reform, and marijuana legalization.
I am pleased to see the conservative movement come around. In 1971 when Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs it set us on the wrong path, in may view. It is time to admit the war on drugs has been a failure and the war has been lost. I am not one who advocates the immediate legalization of all drugs. I am pragmatic enough to say legalize marijuana first and then consider other drug policy latter.
Pot prohibition has ruined the lives of many people and wasted millions in resources. Pot prohibition has been as much of a failure as alcohol prohibition. The prohibition has disproportionately harmed the Black community where getting arrested for possession of a little pot can destroy one's chances of ever doing anything with their lives. When one is born with the disadvantages of being Black anyway, one arrest for pot possession can condemn one to a life of hopelessness. We have destroyed lives and wasted millions, for what? For letting people use a substance that makes them happy and is relatively harmless.
I do not think advocating legalization of pot will kill anyone's political career at this point. As Governor Johnson said, most people do not want their parents or children to go to jail for smoking pot. I have been a proponent of marijuana reform all of my adult life, but I also have been a conservative participant in the political process all my life. Over the years, I have met many other conservative political activist who have admitting to smoking pot. I assume liberals use marijuana to a greater extend than conservative, but I doubt by very much. As conservatives, we believe government should stay out of our lives and we believe in combating government waste and we believe in federalism. Conservatives should support an end to pot prohibition.