Cain comes out for marijuana policy reform

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 14:53 EDT
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Herman Cain wears a hat and glasses in Des Moines, Iowa (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
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Appearing briefly in Urbandale, Iowa yesterday, Republican presidential candidate and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain revealed a new caveat of his political platform: he favors removing federal penalties for medical marijuana, placing the decision to ban or regulate squarely in the states’ hands.

“If states want to legalize medical marijuana, I think that’s a state’s right,” Cain said, according to NBC News. “Because one of my overriding approaches to looking at all of these issues — most of them belong at the state, because when you do something federally … you try to force one-size-fits-all.”

The federal government currently prosecutes medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have passed laws permitting them. The government has listed marijuana as a Schedule I substance, a class reserved for the most dangerous, medically useless drugs. And while the Obama administration initially said it would not be a good use of resources to prosecute medical marijuana users, it has continued to pursue businesses that supply it, even as the White House has admitted that “some” portions of the plant may have medical value.

Major pharmaceutical companies, however, are virtually unanimous on the matter: dozens of patent applications are currently under consideration for drugs that use elements of marijuana to treat numerous illnesses and symptoms. The plant’s extracts have even been shown to kill certain types of cancerous tumors in a laboratory setting.

Cain’s position on the matter would seem to make him an agnostic on marijuana’s medical values, preferring to remove federal penalties — a form of decriminalization — and allow states to impose their own framework for regulation or prohibition.

Interestingly, he may have other reasons for coming out in support of federal medical marijuana decriminalization. Being the former CEO of a pizza delivery chain, Cain of all people surely knows that the restaurant industry enjoys at least one ancillary benefit of the underground marijuana economy: the munchies.

All joking aside about stoners struggling to order a pizza, author Bruce Watson examined the potential secondary economic effects of a legalized pot market in 2010, predicting that companies like Kraft, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, Frito Lay and other purveyors of carbohydrate-filled junk food would be immediate beneficiaries of a tax-and-regulate framework.

The issue could also be a winning cause for Cain, who’s seen his narrow lead diminished recently as reporters revealed that numerous women have accused him of sexual harassment over the years. A Quinnipiac University poll in Feb. 2010 found that 71 percent of voters support legalizing marijuana for medical use, including 55 percent of Republicans.

The statement also makes Cain one of two frontrunners for the GOP nomination who openly support reforming the federal drug laws. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has also come out in support of major reforms to the nation’s drug policies, and a recent poll found that Paul is in a statistical tie with Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney in the race for the GOP nomination.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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