Rachel Krueger is a registered Republican who was genuinely shocked when she learned that her party isn’t in favor of the legalization of marijuana.
“It almost seems hypocritical to me,” said the Casper College paralegal student and mother of three. “Democrats want more regulation; they believe in more government. Republicans are more on the side of, ‘You take care of yourself, the government is going to stay out as much as possible.’ I would think they would feel that way about marijuana.”
Krueger said she thinks people who are opposed to the legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes need educated about what the natural drug actually does.
“I am not saying that marijuana should be a free-for-all for everybody. There should be regulation,” said the 29-year-old student. “I believe putting an age limit, like 21 or older, like it is with alcohol, is important for society to function properly.
“But to think that marijuana is such a horrible thing, and detrimental to brain development, and the idea that it ruins people’s lives and that it’s a gateway drug – it’s all a fallacy,” she said.
Krueger said marijuana should be mostly viewed as a medicine, because there is medical proof that it helps people with a variety of health problems, including cancer, depression, pain and insomnia. “You can’t deny the facts,” she noted.
Because the government has made pot illegal and classifies it in the same category as harder drugs, she noted, people grow up believing that it should be illegal. “That makes it even harder to convince them that it should be legal, regulated and can be used responsibly,” she reasoned.
Krueger said she has a wide network of friends throughout Wyoming, and a high (unintentional humor) percentage use marijuana. “These people have successful lives, and they use it responsibly, during their time off,” she said. “They know how to limit themselves. … I think people that don’t use marijuana would be shocked to know the actual number of people who do.”
Another issue that works in marijuana’s favor is the positive effect legalization would have on the economy if it is taxed, she said.
Krueger said she also wonders how much of the opposition to pot is based on the fact that penalties for its use and possession make a lot of money for cities.
Because Wyoming is both politically and socially conservative, she said, it is usually the last state in the country to approve new things. “I think it could give people here peace of mind, knowing that other states are legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, because they want to see what happens there,” she said. “No one wants to try something and fail.”
Krueger said she thinks Wyoming could approve medical marijuana within five years. “For recreational use, I think it’s probably going to take 75 to 80 percent of the United States to make it legal before Wyoming does it,” she predicted.
She said change can happen fast on many issues that have been historically opposed by a majority of people. Krueger compared the marijuana issue to the sudden acceptance of gay marriage by many people, including conservatives. Educating people about the facts of marijuana use is the key, she said, and she has no doubt it will improve lives.
To that end, she’s thinking about starting a Republicans for Marijuana Legalization group in the state. That’s going to have to wait, though, until after she graduates next year and can give the issue more attention than she can right now.
“Regulating it, showing people that it can be used in a responsible manner – I think America will be happier,” she said.
Amen. Having support for progressive ideas from Republicans like Krueger may be the way attitudes about marijuana will change in Wyoming and the rest of the country.
Think about how much could happen with the pro-legalization effort if conservative Republicans joined the cause in large numbers, banding together with existing groups like Weed Wyoming and the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML)?
In addition to young adults and aging hippies in tie-dyed shirts carrying pro-pot signs, there would be a cadre of conservatives, carrying briefcases and driving SUVs to rallies.
When soccer moms like Krueger get involved, watch how quickly things change.