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Opening Arguments

Going to pot

Marijuana is one of the issues on which the Republican presidential contenders are going against the tide of public opinion. Although some of the candidates are flexible when it comes to medical marijuana, each of the candidates opposes full legalization. In a recent survey, 53 percent of Americans said they support legalization, compared with 44 percent who were opposed:

That result points to one of the central dilemmas confronting the party's voters and candidates on the issue of marijuana: They favor a weaker federal government and giving more power to the states in general, but when it comes to pot, a substantial bloc of the party wants the federal government to rein in the states.

"This whole idea of legalized marijuana is twofold for Republicans,"

said David Kopel, an associate policy analyst at the

Cato Institute who has researched drug policy.

"Opposition to marijuana use plays well with

conservatives, which is the core voter base in the primary.

Yet that stance is not popular with the larger electorate."

And, he said, the idea of "state's rights and limiting the reach of

the federal government" is crucial to Republican voters —

and thus to candidates seeking support.

That is an interesting dilemma, and I've usually come down on the side of local control -- you either believe in federalism or you don't, and I do. But I suppose you could make the argument that you should make an exception when the issue is important enough -- who would support, for example, a state's right to legalize arson? The question then becomes whether prohibiting maijuana is that important.

And of course the push from the other side will eventually be get a federal law mandating approval for marijuana in all 50 states. I'm surprised they haven't gone there yet.

In the meantime:

Ohio will vote on a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in November, state officials announced Wednesday.

If the measure passes, Ohio would become the fifth state and the first in the Midwest to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, in addition to the District of Columbia.

Don't look for any domino effect. Even if Buckeyes approve the measure (doubtful), that's not going to nudge Indiana's General Assembly to bring up the issue.