Longtime political power player and Donald Trump associate Roger Stone most recently made headlines when it was announced he would be testifying before the House Intelligence Committee about his knowledge regarding any contacts between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign. Stone, who had wanted a public hearing, told Politico that he relishes the opportunity to appear during the closed hearing so he can rebut Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s “serial lies” that he had any advanced knowledge of WikiLeaks’ hacking of Podesta’s emails.
While Stone’s testimony isn’t likely to reveal any bombshells, it will be taking place just days before the deadline Attorney General Jeff Sessions set for a Justice Department task force to review the nation’s marijuana policies. Stone has been very critical of Sessions’ apparent desire to “turn back the clock to the 70s” when it comes to marijuana legislation, and has launched (with cannabis supporter John Morgan) the United States Cannabis Coalition with the goal of, among other things, urging President Trump to stick to his campaign promises to leave the question of legalization to the states.
Stone’s stance on legalization is a curious shift for the lifelong Republican operative. Roger Stone urged Trump to launch his political career and launched the pro-Trump super-PAC, the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness. Before that he helped Ronald Reagan get elected after being mentored by Richard Nixon, the original driving force behind the nation’s current war on drugs. Despite his rigid beginnings, Stone says he is now “a libertarian convert” when it comes to legalization and has been speaking out in favor of it for years.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states, and eight states now allow adults to use pot for recreational purposes. According a Survey USA poll cited by the Washington Times, three out of four adults believe states should have the power to establish their own marijuana laws, and only 14 percent think the Justice Department should bypass state legislation in order to enforce federal laws and prosecute marijuana laws.
As the Times also points out, Trump said on the campaign trail that states should establish their own marijuana laws, and White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said in February that legalization “is a states’ rights issue.” Stone wants to see tide toward wider legalization continue, and plans to hold Trump’s feet to the fire for his statements regardless of Sessions’ seemingly opposing goals.
“Attorney General Sessions has threatened to reverse the Cole Memorandum and I think people who depend on cannabis for medical relief would no longer have access and we would reinvigorate the cartels,” Stone recently told Forbes. “That would, in turn, bankrupt a number of states who are getting millions of dollars in revenues from the legal sales and cause the loss of jobs.”
While Stone’s coalition will do some lobbying, he says its main purpose is protecting legalization in the states where marijuana is already legal, remove the drug from its excessive Schedule 1 status, and push for additional funding for unbiased research into pot’s potential medical benefits. Even if Sessions does try to move things in the other direction, Roger Stone says, he believes that Congress would vote to bypass Sessions and legalize marijuana anyway. And while it’s unclear how closely (or recently) Stone has talked to Trump about the issue, he plans to join forces with anyone who will help him to keep his word.
"I am going to be working with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats, progressives and libertarians, liberals, and conservatives to persuade the president to keep his campaign pledge, and to remind the president that he took a strong and forthright position on this issue in the election," Stone said at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo.
Does Stone have a chance of getting through to the president? He thinks so.
“He’s interested in what works. He’s a pragmatist,” Stone said of President Trump in the Washington Times. “I think nothing is out of the question.”
We’ll see. Roger Stone has to get through his testimony first.