Grover Norquist and Dana Rohrabacher Advocate for Ultimate Marijuana Bill

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
March 13 2014 4:54 PM

Cheech and Chong and Reagan

The marijuana lobby searches for conservatives who hate taxes more than they hate drugs.

(Continued from Page 1)

I head over to the Heritage Foundation’s monthly Conversations With Conservatives panel, where marijuana’s not likely to come up at all. As it wraps I ask a few of the House’s most right-wing members, the guys who run the place, if there’s any interest in the cannabis bills. Texas Rep. Joe Barton, who’s been in the House since 1985, sounds utterly baffled when (with an assist from a more eloquent reporter) I explain the issue.

“I don’t think marijuana helps people,” says Barton. “I think it hurts over time. I don’t want Congress to pre-empt the state of Colorado. If the banks won’t take the money, well, good for the banks. If inadvertent regulation of banks prevents people from using marijuana, I’m for preventing people from using marijuana.”

A few minutes later, I pose the same question to Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman, elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, and 27 years younger than Barton. He starts out criticizing the Obama administration for its abuse of power, which makes sense, as later in the day the House will pass a bill making it easier to sue the president.


“The attorney general is, again, moving without Congress,” he says. “But I think that we should have hearings on it. We need to realize that there are consequences to laws and referendums that pass in the states when it comes to banks and interstate commerce.

There are problems when we legalize drugs because of the infrastructure behind it.

The flow of money is being forced on them. There’s concern about the soundness, the integrity behind the dollars. When you have several states that are now approving marijuana, it’s going to affect the country ways we may not have thought of.”

In other words: Sure, he’ll look at it. So will Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus, the retiring chairman emeritus of the House Financial Services Committee, whom I talk to later in the lobbying day, and who is at least open to the idea of banks taking the money.

“If Colorado law allows them to do it lawfully, then I think the bank is entitled to take the money,” says Bachus. “I’d be for addressing it. I’m not for people hiding their money in mattresses and getting robbed.”

When the day ends, I catch up with the lobbyists in the beige vending machine sector of the Rayburn Building. They sit and talk over packaged snacks and vitamin-infused waters. No breakthroughs just yet.

“I was in [New York Sens. Chuck] Schumer and [Kirsten] Gillibrand’s offices, and they seemed disinterested in the issue,” said Steve Trenk of AcquiFlow. “We got a lot of platitudes about seeing what happens.”

Another lobbyist says this might have been a small victory. If Schumer isn’t concerned with the push, he’s out of “drug warrior” mode. He’s not going to oppose the bill—if the House actually moves the bill. If a trend-spotter like Schumer sees no upside in attacking legal marijuana banking or tax deduction (we are talking, after all, about a senator who briefly decided that the Dubai Ports deal was a threat to America), there are no enemies to the left.

The next morning, on the last day of lobbying, the NCIA gather in the Cannon Building to package their message for the press. The hook: An appearance by Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who would explain that marijuana’s victory was preordained. 

“Demographic destiny is marching on,” says Lake. “Marijuana is one of the few issues that mobilizes progressive voters without any backlash.”

Rohrabacher sits in the first row of chairs, eyeing Lake with no apparent reaction. He gets up; he argues that his team should already be backing these bills, his bill especially, no matter whether progressives or the counterculture or whoever else are for it. 

“If it was a secret ballot,” says Rohrabacher, “a majority of my Republican friends would have voted for this.”

*Correction, March 14, 2014: This article originally misstated that Dana Rohrabacher was discussing H.R. 2240 in his speech to the Marijuana Policy Project. He was discussing H.R. 1523.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.