While traditional Republicans were meeting at Clare’s Doherty Hotel, a volunteer for presidential hopeful Ron Paul was finding a largely receptive audience a block away before a very non-traditional audience.
“Conservative government, smaller government, less intrusive government,” Paul volunteer Race Williams told members of the Clare County Compassion Club. “That’s what we need.”
The compassion club is a group of medical marijuana patients, caregivers and supporters. They meet twice a month at the Pere Marquette District Library in Clare to discuss the issue and offer insight and support.
“He is not saying he’ll legalize drugs,” Race told the approximately 50 people gathered for the meeting. But the Republican Texas representative and one-time Libertarian Party candidate for president is highly skeptical of the long-time “war on drugs.”
“The drug war, prohibition, it’s clear that doesn’t work,” Williams told the patients and caregivers.
Michigan voters approved the limited cultivation and use of medical marijuana under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, passed in 2008. But Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette – who was the keynote speaker for the weekend’s 4th District Republican Roundup at the Doherty – has made strict enforcement of the act one of his priorities.
Many of the medical marijuana supporters said the enforcement is too strict, and oversteps boundaries they say should govern law enforcement.
“Bill Schuette’s driving me nuts,” said patient Todd Billman of Roscommon. The law is “being used to persecute us,” Billman said.
Schuette, in an attorney general’s opinion released last year, noted that possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal under federal law, and that the Michigan Public Health Code still makes possession or cultivation illegal. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act doesn’t legalize the drug, but is designed to prevent prosecution of registered patients and caregivers, who may grow a limited amount of the drug for their patients.
In 2002, Paul introduced a bill that would make it clear that the federal prohibition on possession, sale or cultivation of marijuana would not interfere with states’ rights to permit the medicinal use of cannabis. The bill went nowhere.
But Race said Paul still supported the right of states to permit medical marijuana.
“If there’s no federal prohibition, there’s no federal law for Bill Schuette to use as a crutch,” Race said.
Not all the club members were ready to fall in line behind Paul’s Libertarian, laissez-faire, hands-off policy proposals. Bumper stickers supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement were being sold, and at least one member took strong issue with Paul’s stands on abortion and climate change.
But others were very supportive.
“I want to save the soul of America before it’s too late,” said one patient, a gray-bearded, heavyset man in Dickies overalls and a hunter orange cap. He didn’t want to give his name.
Paul finished a close third in the Iowa caucuses last week, and several recent surveys show him in second place in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Michigan’s presidential primary is Feb. 28.