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Some Republicans, however, are ready to legalize medical marijuana. Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a doctor and onetime Libertarian Party presidential candidate, has been fighting for medical marijuana. "From a humanitarian standpoint, people should never be denied this kind of help," says Paul. But fellow Republican Hutchinson stands behind the decision to prosecute. "Why would they want to authorize behavior under state law that is still a violation of federal law?" he says. "It endangers a population, to me. It gives the green light on the one hand and a go-to-jail ticket on the other."
Among cops and other law enforcers, there are sharp divisions too. Some, like Joseph D. McNamara, a former San Jose police chief and now a Hoover Institution fellow, call for an end to the criminalization of marijuana. "Most of the police officers I hired during the 15 years I was police chief had tried it," says McNamara. Like many pot legalizers, he believes the system, which he says arrests more people for marijuana than for any other drug, is racist. "Ninety million Americans have tried marijuana. When you look at who's going to jail, it is overwhelmingly disproportionate--it's Latinos and blacks." Not surprisingly, the topic is radioactive in the police profession. Andy Anderson, who was head of his state's largest cop organization, the Nevada Conference of Police and Sheriffs, announced that his board members unanimously supported the pro-pot initiative so they could focus on more serious crimes. A few days later, Anderson was forced to resign. The voice for Nevada cops then became Gary Booker, deputy district attorney in charge of the vehicular-crimes unit, until he told members of the press he believed the wild claims of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche that Soros is pro-legalization because he bankrolls drug cartels. When talking to Time at the Elks lodge where he introduced the drug czar, Booker awkwardly tried to explain away his statement: "The word cartel was used, not drug. A cartel is a group of businessmen who control price, and that's what we've got here. Three or four guys are controlling the thing." He too stepped out of the role of Nevada police spokesman.
The pro-pot people feel that victory--even if it comes not this year and not in Nevada--is inevitable. Each year there are fewer members of the pre-boomer generation, who tend not to distinguish between heroin and pot. In 1983, only 31% of Americans surveyed had tried pot; the new TIME/CNN poll puts the figure at 47%. And though pot use among teens is down from its '70s highs, parents sneaking joints when their kids are asleep is a fresh phenomenon. But the polls show that Americans still cling to pot's forbidden status, which is why the pro-pot people are working so hard. "You would think you would get a change, but you're not going to," says Charles Whitebread, a law professor at the University of Southern California who has written extensively on marijuana law. "Even though it did nothing to them, the fear that it will somehow pollute their children has made some of the people who used marijuana extremely freely now say, 'Oh, gee, I wouldn't be in favor of the change in the legal status of marijuana.'" It may be that the major dividing line between the pro-and anti-legalizers is not party affiliation but parental status. And even among parents, moms see more against pot than dads.