Senate Musings

On the issue of medical marijuana, Jeff Flake has a friendlier, clearer stance than Richard Carmona

It would not surprise me if in the next six years—the term of a U.S. senator—the federal government were to tackle the issue of marijuana-law reform.

The feds have been bitch-slapping the populace over the issue for decades now, on both the medical side and the recreational, and it seems to me that America is getting tired of playing Larry to the federal government's Moe. And since incumbents have a huge advantage in U.S. Senate elections, either Richard Carmona or Jeff Flake might well have a chance to help get the feds out of the cannabis-control business, even if the issue isn't resolved within six years.

But would they? Maybe.

Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, representing the donkey in the Arizona race for Senate, kinda-sorta spoke out against medical cannabis as long as a decade ago, and as recently as 2008. He maintained it was bad, because smoking is bad, mmkay?

But back in June, the superhero (he once fatally shot—then tried to save—a murder suspect in a shootout), former SWAT surgeon and vice admiral told KTVK in Phoenix that decriminalization should be on the table.

"I don't think there's a clear-cut answer. What we do need is a rational debate about this to make a decision ... I think we have to have everything on the table—the health effects of that, the economic effects and also the impact on the judicial system, which is now really overwhelmed with so many people with minor drug offenses," he said right there on TV.

Carmona has also spoken out against the twisting, suppression and general misuse of science at the behest of politicians (the second Mr. Bush, for example). But none of that shows clear support for state medical-marijuana laws or a desire to change the Controlled Substances Act.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, who hopes to ride an elephant to a November victory over Carmona, has a clearer position. Also a superhero (according to the Citizens Against Government Waste:, Flake has served since 2001 in Congress. He currently represents Congressional District 6, which stretches along either side of U.S. Route 60 from Mesa eastward to rural Pinal County.

In 2005, Flake voted for an amendment on a House bill that would have prevented—yes, I said prevented—the feds from arresting, prosecuting or even suing God-fearing Americans (or me or you) for using or distributing medical marijuana in compliance with state law. The amendment failed, but that's a pretty ballsy vote for a Republican. Most Republicans seem to want the federal government out of their business—but when it comes to religion and vaginas and drugs, they want to be all up in your shit.

Flake also once signed on to a Republican Liberty Caucus policy statement supporting alternatives to the "ineffective" War on Drugs, which gave us "frightening abuses of the Bill of Rights which could affect the personal freedom of any American." The statement also says that, per the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, "matters such as drugs should be handled at the state or personal level." Hear, hear.

Those positions earned Flake a plus-20 rating from NORML on drug reform. Only 109 members of the House got plus 10 or better, on a scale from minus 30 to plus 30. Impressive.

All of this leaves me a bit confused. Jeff Flake is a slash-and-burn fiscal conservative who I fear would make every effort to emasculate government by ditching spending at every turn. That sounds good, until Grandma is sifting through the Dumpster for dinner, and your baby dies of pneumonia because you don't have health-care coverage. Yet Flake would probably keep his hands out of my medicine cabinet.

Carmona is a Democrat, and I am generally all for more Democrats in the Senate. Being represented by a surgeon superhero SWAT admiral seems like a good idea to me. Carmona will get my vote in November.

But if you are basing your decision solely on marijuana law, either medical or recreational, I would say go with Flake. Carmona's murky statements leave me wondering what he really thinks.

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