Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan says states have right to legalize medical marijuana
DENVER — Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan told a Colorado television station that he thinks the federal government shouldn’t interfere with states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, told KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs that he personally doesn’t approve of medical marijuana laws. But he said that states should have the right to choose whether to legalize the drug for medical purposes.
“It’s up to Coloradans to decide,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. A clip of the interview aired Friday.
Ryan added that the issue would not be “a high priority” in a Romney-Ryan administration.
Ryan taped the interview while campaigning this week in Colorado Springs.
A spokesman for Ryan later said that Ryan agrees with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has said that marijuana should never be legalized.
Romney told a Colorado reporter earlier this year, “I think marijuana should not be legal in this country. I believe it’s a gateway drug to other drug violations.”
Ryan’s statement contrasted with the administration of President George W. Bush, which sent federal agents to raid dispensaries in California that were legal under that state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law.
Initially, the Barack Obama administration signaled that it would not interfere with state-sanctioned marijuana distribution. But Obama’s Justice Department has since angered marijuana activists by shutting down dispensaries in California and Colorado.
Colorado is one of 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow medical marijuana.
Marijuana activists lauded Ryan but said they weren’t sure a Romney administration would embrace states that condone medical marijuana.
“We’ll take this with a grain of salt,” said Steve Fox of the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project.
Fox said Republicans and Democrats alike have said they want to respect state marijuana laws while enforcing federal law, which outlaws pot in all circumstances.
He called Ryan’s comments significant because they indicate a new willingness from to politicians to talk about marijuana policy.
“The positive from our perspective is that he feels this is the right position to take from a political standpoint,” Fox said.
The Obama campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Story distributed by The Associated Press)