A Tale of Two House Minority Leaders

Illinois

Although a piece of legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in Illinois failed by a slim margin last December, a Republican leader in the House has shifted his support, raising the chances that the bill could pass. Tom Cross, the House Minority Leader, announced last week that he would support legalization. His change of heart, he said, was because he spoke with some people who use medical marijuana, including a disabled veteran. [...]

It’s also telling that Cross changed his mind after speaking with the people who are actually affected by the legislation – something that perhaps more politicians should try.

Now, in fact, there’s been more than enough opportunity for Cross to have learned the truth about marijuana before now. He must have lived in a propaganda cocoon that prevented him from even hearing reform messages. But I respect him for finally being open to learning new things and changing his mind based on that knowledge.

On the other hand…

Rhode Island/Connecticut

The minority leader of the Rhode Island House, who recently dismissed debate over the decriminalization of marijuana as not worthy of legislators’ time, is facing pot-possession charges in Connecticut.

Robert Watson, a Republican from East Greenwich, was stopped at a police checkpoint Friday and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence, East Haven police said.

Watson drew fire in February when he gave a speech to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce in which he said facetiously that lawmakers had their priorities right “if you are a Guatemalan gay man who likes to gamble and smokes marijuana.”

In many ways, this politician is lower than the sado-moralist true believers of the prohibition world. He considers himself above the law, and, while clearly not believing marijuana use to be wrong or harmful, is willing to send others to prison for what he does — even going so far as to ridicule reform attempts — all to maintain some cheap political stance.

I don’t really understand the depths of depravity of such a person. Perhaps that’s why I could never be in politics (which in itself is a sad commentary on our political class). I wouldn’t have the ability to publicly push for what I knew was wrong.

Oh, I could compromise. I could vote for a bill that included X (something I considered evil) because it’s the only way to get Y (something serving a greater good). It would hurt, and I would complain bitterly about it publicly, but in the right situation, I could do it.

What I could not do is tell people that X is good for them and important to have, even though I knew it was wrong.

Why is that such a rare trait to find in our political leaders?

Update: Commenter Benjamin notes that I may have been too hasty on the extent of my condemnation of Watson based solely on what was reported in the article. I hope that’s true.

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