A Tale of Two House Minority Leaders


Although a piece of legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in Illinois failed by a slim margin last December, a Republican leader in the House has shifted his support, raising the chances that the bill could pass. Tom Cross, the House Minority Leader, announced last week that he would support legalization. His change of heart, he said, was because he spoke with some people who use medical marijuana, including a disabled veteran. […]

It’s also telling that Cross changed his mind after speaking with the people who are actually affected by the legislation – something that perhaps more politicians should try.

Now, in fact, there’s been more than enough opportunity for Cross to have learned the truth about marijuana before now. He must have lived in a propaganda cocoon that prevented him from even hearing reform messages. But I respect him for finally being open to learning new things and changing his mind based on that knowledge.

On the other hand…

Rhode Island/Connecticut

The minority leader of the Rhode Island House, who recently dismissed debate over the decriminalization of marijuana as not worthy of legislators’ time, is facing pot-possession charges in Connecticut.

Robert Watson, a Republican from East Greenwich, was stopped at a police checkpoint Friday and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence, East Haven police said.

Watson drew fire in February when he gave a speech to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce in which he said facetiously that lawmakers had their priorities right “if you are a Guatemalan gay man who likes to gamble and smokes marijuana.”

In many ways, this politician is lower than the sado-moralist true believers of the prohibition world. He considers himself above the law, and, while clearly not believing marijuana use to be wrong or harmful, is willing to send others to prison for what he does — even going so far as to ridicule reform attempts — all to maintain some cheap political stance.

I don’t really understand the depths of depravity of such a person. Perhaps that’s why I could never be in politics (which in itself is a sad commentary on our political class). I wouldn’t have the ability to publicly push for what I knew was wrong.

Oh, I could compromise. I could vote for a bill that included X (something I considered evil) because it’s the only way to get Y (something serving a greater good). It would hurt, and I would complain bitterly about it publicly, but in the right situation, I could do it.

What I could not do is tell people that X is good for them and important to have, even though I knew it was wrong.

Why is that such a rare trait to find in our political leaders?

Update: Commenter Benjamin notes that I may have been too hasty on the extent of my condemnation of Watson based solely on what was reported in the article. I hope that’s true.

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16 Responses to A Tale of Two House Minority Leaders

  1. Benjamin says:

    Let’s not be too hasty with Robert Watson… He did vote FOR medical marijuana, and while he spoke against the Democratic decrim agenda, he I think he hasn’t voted against it, as it hasn’t come up for a full vote yet.

  2. darkcycle says:

    “Let’s not be too hasty with Robert Watson…”
    Hasty? After the “…Guatamalan Gay man who likes to gamble and smokes marijuana…” comment? Hasty?
    Benjamin, he sees fit to smear all pot smokers with a racist, zenophobic comment; seems to me we’re not being hasty, this guy is a piece of shit.
    Too bad that de-crim bill didn’t pass…if he’d supported it seems to me he would have nothing to worry about (O.K., O.K. I know he was arrested in Connecticut, but Rhode island is so small if you trip on a root there, you hit your head in Conn.). In my own opinion, the hypocrisy conviction will probably hurt him more than the pot bust.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      DC I’ve never seen a decrim bill that included decriminalizing DUI-m.

      Mr. Watson is actually a very unique politician from my past observations of these people. My first reaction was, “great, here’s one which we can trot out when the Know Nothings say it’s only potheads voting in favor of patient access for medicinal cannabis. Well the odds sure said that a closeted, Republican xenophobe would have voted against medicinal cannabis but it turns out he was influential in getting the bill out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.

      As far as his comments about Guatemalans, cannabis and priorities I can sure entertain the argument that while he phrased it in the manner of a total fucking asshole, that he was correct in his assessment. At first blush it’s gratifying to see all these political bodies debating this, that and the other about advancing our favorite cause but then I get down to motivation and the most significant reason all of these cannabis discussions are going on is to distract the voters from the fiscal calamity that the politicians have foisted on this country. We’re being used, and they’ll flush us like used toilet paper when they’re finished with us.

      For example, Montana is facing a deficit of 1/2 billion this year, and Montana has been fiscally responsible for quite some time. They’re actually one of the last States to start sporting a budget deficit coming out of the 2008 fiscal calamity. But there’s nary a peep coming out of the Montana legislature about the fiscal shortfall, but they sure can argue the heck out of repealing the 2004 medicinal cannabis access law. That they haven’t even managed to reach an agreement seems to support the assertion that they didn’t actually give a shit about medicinal cannabis. They just didn’t want to deal with the fact that they are unwilling or unable to deal with the budget shortfall that is looming on their horizon.

  3. darkcycle says:

    Perhaps he did vote for Medical Marijuana…that just means he doesn’t cotton to arresting sick people. He’s still just fine with the idea of your kid being stuck with a permanent record for a pot arrest. He’s also O.K. with filling the jails and courts with recreational users.
    MMJ is seen as a separate issue to pols, to them it’s all about the visuals. They may be just fine personally with arresting M.S. patients and Chemo victims, but they don’t want that image out there with the public. I know it won’t happen, but I’d love to see this guy given mandatory treatment and get run through the ENTIRE Drug Court ringer, but he won’t. He will probably get a suspended sentance and not even have to do community service. That is, if his high-dollar lawyer can’t get the charges dismissed first. Boy, I’m cynical today…

  4. warren says:

    1. He does not inhale. 2. It was somebody elses stash that was in his car. This bozo need to be president.

  5. Servetus says:

    As recreational drug use goes, corrupt and incompetent leadership will seize on anything to exploit and oppress people. If the political tools for oppression are not immediately available, oppressors such as Rep. Robert Watson are likely to mythologize in order to create a new scapegoat or demon that can be employed for that purpose. It’s an ancient story.

    Back in the bad old days of the witch hunts, it’s well documented that numerous authorities holding university degrees knew commoners’ beliefs in demons and witches were a load of superstitious crap. Despite this, authorities promoted and defended these superstitions because they believed that manipulating the public fear-factor in this way made social control a whole lot easier. Maybe it did, but ease of control was no excuse to dupe the public with witchcraft, given the deadly consequences of its persecution.

    Anyone who believes we’ve come a long way since the 17th century need merely inspect the modern methods of prohibition that serve a similar purpose in so-called modern cultures. People are sent to jail for being proximate to the least harmful euphoriant in the entire spectrum of available drugs, including ones that are legal. Something like criminalizing cannabis makes no sense to anyone in anything but a bigoted, witch hunting society.

  6. Matthew Meyer says:

    Pete, I think it’s possible to enjoy smoking pot even while “knowing” it’s morally wrong. Some who choose cannabis, it seems, are perversely comfortable with staying in the closet.

  7. Dante says:

    “I don’t really understand the depths of depravity of such a person. ”

    I do. Another soul lost to the quest for limitless power and money. There are 535 of them just like that in Washington, DC.

  8. Tom Angell says:

    Yes, it’s true. Bob Watson, like the vast majority of Rhode Island’s state legislators, voted for medical marijuana on a number of occasions. He also supports decriminalization. It’s pretty unfortunate that the press has tried to make a more interesting story of this by trying to claim he’s anti-marijuana. His joke earlier this year, while unfortunate, was simply criticizing the extent to which his colleagues wanted to focus on marijuana versus other topics, not an expression that he opposes changing the marijuana laws.

  9. ezrydn says:

    It’ll just turn into another “Lindsey Lohan” case that goes nowhere, like the rest of his ilk.

  10. vicky vampire says:

    Your cynical Darkcycle join the club,I’m cynical 24-7, every time we make a bit of progress on Ending prohibition just a little, out of left field come more threats,pounding by government it’s never ending, even if 90 percent of folks want pot legal The hypocrites in government will come up with excuse after excuse and games to keep folks controlled I firmly believe that half of all politicians sociopaths the other are just dumb asses.

    I hope more republican politicians are caught using pot yeah then the public, can see yeah its mainstream even with the conservative party with exception of a few regard pot has having no medical need more Republicans need to be caught and stop this farce, or come out in favor of pot,
    The republicans need to be confronted continually about there cowardice concerning Cannabis and there supposed call for Freedom in every case except for pot,please conservatives are always rallying about smokers rights and tobacco is much more harmful off the charts than Cannabis, but there excuse is it put you in an altered state of mind oh please.
    Yeah a relaxed pleasant happy state of mind that calms is evil you idiots.

  11. Tom Angell says:

    Leader Watson says, just now, on the floor of the House, that he uses medical marijuana to treat a pancreatic condition that left him in a coma for 5 days last year. He says he did not register with the state Dept of Health as a patient out of privacy concerns. He received a standing ovation from other lawmakers. More as the story develops…

  12. Servetus says:

    Excellent defense from Rep. Watson. Now if he can just put the same kibosh on marijuana drugged driving laws….

  13. Duncan20903 says:

    As we progress from the sublime to the ridiculous…

    My first instincts tell me he’s lying, I’m sure more people will have that initial inclination than don’t. What’s very peculiar is I’m not aware of any other politicians that has lied where there was a potential benefit to me from his doing so.

    Mmm, mmm, mmm I certainly hope he’s actually got a doctor’s recommendation. Oh well now I’m moving into the world of wishful thinking. The answers to all of these questions next week on “As the stomach turns”…

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