Pubdate: Sun, 17 Apr 2016
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Copyright: 2016 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: Steve Terrell


One of the last singles by the late Merle Haggard was a fun little 
tune he sang with his old crony, Willie Nelson, and younger country 
star, Jamey Johnson, called "It's All Going to Pot." With obvious 
glee radiating from their weathered voices, Hag and his pals sang, 
"It's all going to pot / Whether we like it or not. ..."

Yep, it looks like they do smoke marijuana in Muskogee after all.

Willie's been a leading advocate for marijuana legalization for 
decades now, but some who heard that song (released on April 20, 2015 
. 4-20, get it, get it?) were surprised to hear Merle singing it. 
After all, he first rose to national fame in the late '60s when "Okie 
from Muskogee" captured the hearts of President Richard Nixon's 
Silent Majority and was hailed as a troubadour of the right. Those 
who have actually followed his career realize that Haggard's stance 
on drugs softened not long after that hit and that his politics were 
all over the place (one of several reasons I loved him so much).

But the message of "It's All Going to Pot" rang loud and clear in New 
Mexico at the revelation that House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, 
R-Albuquerque, had taken in at least $13,500 from marijuana 
businesses. According to a report by New Mexico In Depth, Gentry 
reported that the lion's share of that amount was from Ultra Health 
LLC, a medical marijuana producer and its founder, Duke Rodriguez, a 
former Lovelace Medical Center executive. Rodriguez also served for a 
year or so as secretary of the state Human Services Department under 
then Gov. Gary Johnson in the mid-1990s.

Rodriguez spoke at a news conference during this year's Legislature 
in which Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff announced a new poll 
for the Drug Policy Alliance showing 61 percent of those interviewed 
support legalization of marijuana for adults 21 or older.

Some were surprised that the House Republican leader was getting 
contributions from the marijuana industry. But I wasn't. It's true 
that Gentry is a strong ally of Gov. Susana Martinez, probably the 
most prominent anti-marijuana drug warrior in the state. But back in 
2013, he was one of two Republican House members who voted in favor 
of a bill that would have drastically reduced criminal penalties for 
marijuana possession.

And in 2015, he voted for that bill to allow the state Agriculture 
Department to research industrial hemp - which Martinez vetoed. (I 
know, I know, hemp is related to but is not marijuana. But one reason 
the governor gave it the thumbs down, according to her veto message 
was "given the similarities between growing hemp and marijuana, this 
legislation could also create serious challenges for law enforcement 
in investigating drug crimes.")

It was far more surprising last year to learn that Republican Darren 
White - the former sheriff of Bernalillo County, the former Public 
Safety Department secretary who resigned because he disagreed with 
Gov. Johnson's drug policies and later was hired as a lobbyist by 
anti-marijuana legislators to lobby against medical marijuana and 
other drug-law reforms, the same guy who made that heart-rendered 
video of a song called "Just Say No" with a band of cops - is now on 
the board of directors of Purlife, a medical marijuana company that 
was selected last year by the Health Department for a producer's license.

And, of course, there's Gov. Johnson, a former Republican who was the 
CEO of a legal-marijuana business until he stepped down this year to 
seek the Libertarian Party's nomination for president.

I think as laws against marijuana continue to crumble and the demand 
grows for product, you're going to be seeing a lot more Republicans 
getting into the business and a lot more GOP politicians getting 
money from marijuana producers.

Take it from Merle and Willie: "It's all going to pot / Whether we 
like it or not. ..."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom