Three of the nation's most well-known Republicans — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — are easing their views on marijuana.
The Washington Times reports that Christie, Perry and Paul, all of them considering a presidential run in 2016, are pressuring the GOP
to "accept a softening of federal marijuana laws."
Paul and Perry believe the federal government should leave the issue of marijuana use to states and Christie wants to end the "failed war on drugs" altogether, the newspaper says.
The shift in their views comes in the wake of decisions in 16 states that have already resulted in the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, and in Colorado and Washington where personal use of the drug is now legal. The decision by those two states to allow recreational use and the sale of marijuana is expected to lead to more states easing their laws this year.
Efforts are already underway in Alaska, California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington, D.C., where supporters of legalization are spearheading voter-driven initiatives
that would bypass state legislatures and secure ballot measures for the 2014 elections, according to a report by U.S. News and World Report.
While Republicans have long opposed the legalization of marijuana — the Nixon White House leading the charge in the late 60s and early 70s — a majority of Americans now believe marijuana use should be legalized nationwide.
A recent CNN/ORC survey found that 55 percent of respondents said they support legalization, compared to 44 percent who believe it should remain illegal.
If Republicans do adopt a more relaxed stand on marijuana use, it would bring them more in line with Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who has said he doesn't believe use of the drug is any more dangerous than alcohol, although he stresses that it is not a good habit to pick up.
Erik Altieri, a spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told The Washington Times, "Certainly, the Republican Party has been a lot slower moving on this issue than on the Democratic side, but particularly in the past several months some prominent figures have sort of recalibrated themselves when it comes to the issue of marijuana."
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