How Paul Ryan Flip-Flopped From 'Leave it Up to the States' to Anti-Legalization in One Weekend

Campaign aides for Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) busied themselves this weekend with telling reporters that the candidate “agrees with Mitt Romney” on keeping marijuana illegal, despite him telling a Colorado television station that he supports letting states flout federal laws on medical marijuana.


Romney said earlier this year that he believes “marijuana should not be legal in this country,” calling it “a gateway drug to other drug violations.”

The views would seem to directly clash with what Ryan told KRDO-TV in Colorado on Friday night. “My personal positions on this issue have been let the states decide what to do with these things,” he remarked during a pre-taped interview. “This is something that is not a high priority of ours as to whether or not we go down this issue. But I’ve always believed is the states should make the right to decide.”

Ryan was trying to draw a contrast with President Barack Obama’s apparent hypocrisy in seemingly asking for marijuana consumers to vote for him by promoting popular stoner characters Harold and Kumar in a commercial, even though he’s taken a hardline stance against medical marijuana dispensaries in states where voters have approved them.

Despite Ryan’s comments, campaign spokespeople told reporters on Saturday that Ryan “agrees with Mitt Romney” that marijuana should never be legal — a position that is, unfortunately, incompatible with his prior statement. In order for states to legally permit medical marijuana, the federal prohibition must first be lifted, I.E. the drug must be legalized by the federal government for the states to “decide” on their own.

Ryan voted against medical marijuana as recently as May, casting his ballot against the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to H.R. 5326, which would have done exactly what the Wisconsin Republican claims he now supports by stopping the Obama administration’s raids on licensed medical marijuana vendors. The candidate also has a rating of -10 by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the nation’s oldest marijuana lobby.

The only presidential candidates who support marijuana legalization are former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Colorado is one of 17 states and the District of Colombia that allows marijuana for medical purposes. It is also one of three states voting this fall on whether to tax and regulate the drug like alcohol.

Polling earlier this year by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. (PDF) found that 74 percent of Americans think the federal government should not interfere with state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

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