Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) tells TIME's Alex Altman that if his colleagues didn't have to own their votes, they would already have legalized pot and ended the "monstrous" war on drugs.
"If it was a secret ballot," Rohrabacher said, "the majority of Republicans would have voted to legalize marijuana a long time ago."
Altman finds some other Republicans who are coming around on pot–former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Sen. Rand Paul, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman–and suggests that "the GOP's Views on Pot are Showing Signs of a Shift." And why not? says oft-quoted political scientist Larry Sabato of UVA. Legalizing pot is "one of the easier things for [Republicans] to do," Sabato says. "It's easier than immigration. It's easier than supporting gay rights."
Sabato is no dummy, but it's not quite that simple. Last year, 50 House Democrats voted against a bipartisan amendment that would have defunded DOJ crackdowns on state-legal medical marjuana dispensaries; while 28 Republicans voted for it. There's more to this than party affiliation (and always has been).
The other complication is that legalization isn't the only option. The diversion model–drug courts, mandatory treatment, probation–is a big hit with state and local Republicans and Democrats, as is decriminalization. And while I've had drug court proponents tell me that the model isn't meant for recreational marijuana users–rather, people who are chemically dependent on harder drugs–the National Association of Drug Court Professionals nevertheless signed on to Patrick Kennedy's letter to Eric Holder calling for the DOJ to block the implementation of recreational marijuana regulations in Colorado and Washington.
So when it comes time for "stakeholders" in the marijuana debate to testify before Congress, we're going to hear from a lot of people who think that fines and forced rehab are better for the children and the budget than outright legalization. And there's a chance–especially considering that there are groups on the right who are pushing hard for every type of criminal justice reform except legalization–that Republicans will listen to them.