We talked to Ann Lee, the founder of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition.
Ann Lee is an 85-year-old great-grandmother from Texas with bright white hair and a warm smile. She's a Republican, staunchly pro-life, and Christian. She also believes it's high time pot was legalized in the United States.
"I will do most anything that's not illegal, immoral, or indecent to promote this issue," Lee told me on a phone call from her home in Houston. "There has been so much harm—actually, I call it evil—that has been the result of the war on drugs."
Lee and her late husband founded Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) in 2012 after realizing there was growing support among Republicans for legalizing weed. She had originally been opposed to marijuana, but her views changed after her son Richard was injured in a work accident in 1990 and required a wheelchair as a paraplegic. He had severe nerve pain and spasms that were best quelled with the use of medical cannabis, she told me (he moved to California after it was legalized in order to access it). Lee and her husband did more research and came to the conclusion that ending marijuana prohibition was actually very much in line with their conservative views.
"Prohibition is not a conservative or Republican philosophy at all," Lee said. "Prohibition negates every principle that I believe in as a Republican: smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and personal responsibility. Why should the government tell me that I cannot use a medicine that my doctor and I think is the best for me?"
Through RAMP, Lee has worked to campaign for marijuana law reform across the country and in her home state, where she most recently testified in front of the Texas House Committee of Criminal Jurisprudence in favor of Bill 2165, which seeks to repeal all marijuana offenses in the state. Lee said she isn't convinced Texas is quite there, but she does believe the tides are changing in the US, even among Republicans.
"I believe it is coming," she said, pointing out that the Texas Young Republicans have come out officially in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. "They've embraced this issue with as much fervor and enthusiasm as I could ever hope to have."
And there's evidence Republican views are starting to change: a Pew poll from February showed a majority of Millennial Republicans (63 percent) said they were in favor of legalizing pot, and GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul even recently helped introduce a federal medical marijuana bill.
Though she doesn't toke up herself—Lee told me she tried some marijuana edibles to help her sleep a few times, but didn't find them very effective—Lee is passionate about ending marijuana prohibition outright in the US, even for recreational use.
"It needs to be taxed, controlled, and regulated. It shouldn't in available for kids to get to, but neither should tobacco or alcohol," she said. "The party of Abraham Lincoln believes in freedom. Prohibition takes away freedom of choice, does it not?"