Dana Rohrabacher

By Joe Garofoli
Saturday, February 21, 2015 – Published 4:40 pm

Politicians don’t get much more conservative than Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. He was Ronald Reagan’s speechwriter, an inspiration behind California’s anti-immigration Proposition 187, a Cold War hardliner, and a man who self-deprecatingly calls himself a “Neanderthal Republican.”

But now, Rohrabacher has emerged as a national leader in one not-so-conservative issue: legalizing marijuana.

“The marijuana laws have been used to expand the power of government over people’s lives more than just anything else I can think of,” Rohrabacher said recently in San Francisco, shortly after a prime speaking slot at the International Cannabis Business Conference. “I would like marijuana to be treated the same way we treat alcohol.”

Doing so, he says, would be the proper conservative move.

Republicans believe in personal responsibility, he said. They believe in states rights — and medicinal marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and adult recreational use is legal in four. “And Republicans are supposed to believe in the doctor-patient relationship,” Rohrabacher said. “That’s what Republicans are supposed to be about.”

Reagan would have jumped on board now, too, Rohrabacher said. OK, maybe not Nancy Reagan, the driving force behind the “Just Say No” antidrug campaign of the 1980s, but her husband — the ex-Hollywood actor who co-starred with a chimp in “Bedtime for Bonzo” — might have been a late-in-life convert. For conservative reasons.

“Reagan was a libertarian conservative, and he always felt that limited government was his goal — as was personal responsibility,” Rohrabacher said. “I think he would be very susceptible to actually joining ranks with others to achieve this goal at this time. It was not doable in his time. Even with medical marijuana. But I think he would be on the side of freedom.

“He had me hanging around, after all,” Rohrabacher said, tugging at his gray sweater vest and matching shirt to reveal a puka shell necklace.

In his younger days, Rohrabacher admits, he lived “a pretty wild life.”

“My goal in life was to drink Tequila and catch a good wave,” he said.

And yes, he smoked some weed.

His “free spirit” ways were so obvious that Lyn Nofziger, the press secretary of Reagan’s unsuccessful 1976 presidential bid, once told him he “can’t use marijuana on this campaign,” the congressman recalled.

By then, Rohrabacher says, he hadn’t smoked in years (he insists he gave the stuff up at 23). “I was focused on defeating the Soviet Union,” he said.

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