by April Foster
Josh Rinehart and Monica Hanna spent Tuesday evening trying to convince Republican voters of the benefits of medical marijuana. Since GOP supporters aren’t typically the most weed-friendly folks, it seemed like an odd environment for such a petition. Nonetheless, Rinehart and Hanna hope to help acquire enough signatures to put medical marijuana on the ballot in November, and to do that, they need support from Idaho Republicans.
“The response seems pretty close minded,” said Reinhart. “For the amount of people here, we should have a lot of signatures. But since it’s a very conservative crowd we’ve had very few. So it’s been very hard getting signatures in this crowd.”
Rinehart, 30, is a Ron Paul supporter. He feels that Paul best represents his views (medical marijuana reform, for one), while staying outside of the traditional GOP establishment.
“Out of the Republican GOP I’m supporting Ron Paul,” proclaimed Rinehart. “He seems, among the conservative Republicans, the least conservative and he seems to have the people’s interests more at heart than other candidates do. He’s not going on about petty things like birth control and stuff like that. He’s tackling the issues that matter to the public instead of hurting us.”
Hanna, 25, is a Democrat but still hasn’t decided which candidate to vote for. If the general election ends up Ron Paul vs. Barack Obama, she might consider switching her prior allegiances.
“I’m actually not a Republican,” said Hanna. “But if I were to vote for a Republican it probably would be for Ron Paul. But as of now, my vote isn’t set. I may vote again for Obama, but I don’t know. If there’s another candidate that’s better, I might consider it.”
Rinehart and Hanna both stated that if it weren’t for the ballot initiative, they probably wouldn’t have attended the caucus. But as long as they were outside the front of Taco Bell Arena, they worked diligently to collect the signatures from a not-so-welcoming crowd.
“We’ve been laughed at. Just straight up told no. Scoffed at,” said Rinehart.
The crowd wasn’t particularly willing to engage either of them in a substantive debate on medical marijuana reform, but they were willing to offer up personal anecdotes.
“I had one lady tell me she had some pot heads ruin an apartment she owned,” said Hanna. “Then she and others tried getting into arguments with me. It’s fine. They’re entitled to their opinions. But some conservatives do believe that medical marijuana should be available for patients in Idaho and that it can be used as a healthier alternative to prescription drugs.”
If the two advocates want to get a medical marijuana initiative passed in this heavily red state, they have to reach out to conservative voters. Unfortunately, some of the GOP audience on Tuesday night wasn’t even aware that medical marijuana is a thing.
“There was one lady who came up and didn’t even know that there was medical value to marijuana,” said Rinehart. “So I explained to her what the medical values were and I implored her to do research. That’s what I tell everyone to do: research it. It’s not for everybody just to get high. We want patients to have access to safer and more effective drugs.”
When pressed on the potential downsides of a situation in which a bunch of diehard Republicans end up stoned, Rinehart’s words weren’t too reassuring.
“I would love to see that,” he said. “They’ve already lost their minds anyways, so what would it hurt?”