In a little noticed op-ed published last week, former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) endorsed a voter-sponsored initiative to legalize marijuana in Colorado, saying his change of heart came "not despite my conservative beliefs, but because of them."
"In many ways, marijuana prohibition is very similar to alcohol prohibition," he wrote in The Colorado Springs Gazette. "Nowhere is this more apparent than in their impact on public safety."
Tancredo's editorial compares the booze-fueled organized crime of the prohibition era to the weed-fueled "narcoterrorists" in Mexico, who he said pose a dire threat to Americans and American business. "[By] keeping marijuana illegal for the last 75 years, we have created a black market that helps fuel some of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world," he argued.
The former congressman and failed Colorado gubernatorial candidate long ago made illegal immigration one of his principle issues. It's his day job, too: After losing his 2010 gubernatorial bid, Tancredo founded Team America super PAC, an organization dedicated to promoting candidates who share his views on immigration.
Tancredo became known for being a virulent immigration critic ever since he personally reported a 14-year-old honors student to immigration authorities after reading that the girl confessed to being undocumented, and sparked national controversy in 2007 by calling for a temporary freeze on all legal immigration. He was even an early booster of "self deportation," a scheme Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he favors.
In other words, Tancredo is not lying or even exaggerating when he says his conservative beliefs pushed him to adopt this position.
A recent survey showed more than half of Colorado voters favor legalization. Also valuable: While drug reform is still a relatively novel area for Republicans, it offers Tancredo a new wedge issue that's completely opposite his 2010 electoral opponent, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who said announced earlier this month that he opposes legalization.
It's not clear if Tancredo will seek public office in Colorado again, but he did say in 2010 that he's open to running for president. His prior bid in the 2008 Republican primaries didn't go so well though, and he's since threatened to leave the party -- so, don't hold your breath.
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