Bruce Kennedy ~ WeedWorthy ~
Texas-based Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) is looking to educate fellow GOP members, as well as the party’s leadership and its grassroots activists.
Like it or not, America is ramping up for the 2016 presidential elections. And one of the major issues already prompting a lot of debate by political pundits and others is where the nation stands, and will stand, on the legalization of marijuana.
While there’s been a lot of talk from pro-cannabis activists and other high-profile supporters, a Texas-based organization is working to bring an unexpected group of voters into the dialogue surrounding cannabis legalization.
Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) says its mission is to help reform the nation’s marijuana laws “by working within the GOP to educate and connect with lawmakers, party leadership, and grassroots activists.”
“We are the voice for all Republicans who oppose the inhumane and unjust practice of imprisoning people for using the cannabis plant,” its web site adds. “We support efforts to bring marijuana out of the black-market and into safe, legal, and regulated use by doctors for compassionate medical care and storefronts for adult recreational use.”
Zoe Russell, RAMP’s assistant executive director, says Americans need to realize that being Republican does not necessarily mean being against cannabis.
“Marijuana prohibition is very much a progressive, big-government policy,” she tells WeedWorthy, “so Republicans should naturally be against marijuana prohibition.”
Headquartered in Houston, Russell says RAMP currently has about 100 members and is focusing most of its efforts within the Lone Star State. But there’s also a North Carolina chapter of RAMP, and the organization is looking to become national.
While most Republicans, as well as most GOP presidential candidates, appear to want to avoid the subject of marijuana legalization altogether, Russell points out some of the surprising events that have taken place recently: with solidly conservative state legislatures in Texas, as well as in Georgia, Tennessee and elsewhere, legalizing the use of specific cannabis oils for some local residents with severe disabilities.
She says the benefits of medical marijuana on certain ailments, such as intractable epilepsy, are obvious. “I think it’s the undeniable science,” she adds, “it’s the undeniable proof of a person’s seizures stopping. I mean, it’s the most compelling thing in the world and there’s no politician that can hold the door on that.”
In terms of its political agenda, Russell says RAMP would support the removal of marijuana as a Schedule One Controlled Substance by the federal government. It also endorses some currently pending Congressional legislation such as the so-called CARERS Act – which would, among other changes, allow legal cannabis businesses access to banks and other financial services.
“Lucky for us, there is good legislation out there that we can just pin-point and request that our congressmen, locally in Texas and our senators (in Washington D.C.), support,” she says. “I have approached Senator Cornyn, I have approached Senator Cruz, I have approached my local Texas congressmen on these types of bills.”
But with most state and federal Republican lawmakers preferring to dance around the issue of cannabis, Russell says RAMP is looking to make sure its message gets heard and digested by Texas voters once the first set of primaries rolls around next year.
“It’s the local, state primaries that are the hold-up in my state-wide races…this far-right constituency that … has a lot of control over the primary process,” she notes.  “There are constituents that just really are opposed to marijuana and they just happen to be powerful, special interest type of constituents.  But if you look at the general public, the general public is supporting marijuana policy reform.”
There’s also the fact that marijuana legalization is a very personal and all-encompassing issue for many people. Along with medical needs, there are concerns about the best use of law enforcement – as well as what Russell calls the “my kid almost got arrested and could have had a criminal record” issue.
“I mean you can come at it from so many different angles,” she adds. “And my main thing is that prohibition doesn’t even work. “

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