Conservative firebrand Tom Tancredo has been called a lot of things. Predictable is not one of them.
The former congressman and one-time gubernatorial candidate was on the pro-pot side of Amendment 64 that passed in Colorado this week. Not only did Tancredo—a small-government idealist who believes firmly in states’ rights—support the amendment, but he also recorded a radio advertisement  and attended at least one newspaper editorial board meeting to push the proposal.
Tancredo, whom I profiled last year , spoke to me yesterday afternoon about his surprise that the amendment passed so convincingly, marijuana’s future in Colorado, and the chance that he might fire up a joint.
5280: Why did you decide to jump in on Amendment 64? You obviously felt this was the right place and the right time for marijuana legalization.
Tancredo: I wish I could tell you it was that strategic. It’s not. I simply did it because it was on the ballot and somebody said, `Do you want to help us?’ I said, `Sure.’ That’s about it. There wasn’t more to it than that. I ended up speaking a few times, and they asked if I could do a little more, and I was happy to do it. It was serendipitous, more than anything.
Do you think more Republicans should have joined you and supported this?
There are groups and organizations that my colleagues might agree with, but they’re fearful to actually address it publicly.
You think it’s because of you?
I think there is that factor. Tancredo is sort of a lighting rod. That certainly could be part of it. It very much could be that.
What does the amendment’s passage mean to Colorado?
The issue is maturing. I admit that I was surprised that it passed. The last time we had it on the ballot, it went down by eight points, or so. This time I thought it would be five or four—and the next time, we’d pass it. This signals that medical marijuana passed with all these admonitions of gloom and doom and none of these great horrible problems came to be. I think we saw that medical marijuana is out there, and the roof has not caved in. There’s a realization that it was a stupid thing, just like Prohibition.
Was it hard to join sides with people who—on every other issue—you might oppose?
No. Politics makes strange bedfellows. I think that some of them may have had a tougher time coming to grips with my support than I had coming to grips with theirs.
Do you think they came away with, `Hey, Tom Tancredo’s not as crazy as we were lead to believe?’
Either that, or 'It goes to show that he is as nuts as they say.'
Is this a victory for states’ rights?
Gosh, yes. But we still have a bit of a fight on our hands, with the federal government , with how they approach this. States are the laboratories of democracy. And that’s exactly how things are supposed to work. If it doesn’t work, then we’ll know.
Are you worried that this ‘laboratory’ will become a punchline? I can already see the late-night-show jokes.
I’m all for it. If people from all over the country want to come to Colorado and spend their money at a 'drug’ store, and then at the restaurant, and then at the hotel, I think that’s great. After all, Colorado is the place you can get a Rocky Mountain high.
You have never used marijuana, correct?
I have not.
Would you be inclined to use it once?
I don’t think so. People always ask. I don’t anticipate it.
So the door is open?
Well, sure. Man, if somebody told me it’d help tinnitus [from which Tancredo suffers], I’m telling you, it’d be, `Hey, baby.’ I’d be doing it.
If you do, let me know.
I’ll only do it if you promise to do it with me.