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Texas GOP secret committee denies marijuana booth at state convention

rampDespite leadership with deep ties to the Republican Party of Texas (RPT), a secret committee has denied the group Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) a booth at the state convention this year.

The RPT says that for an organization to be accepted as an exhibitor, they must not violate any of the eleven principles on the first page of the RPT platform. RAMP says that they meet the qualifications, but were not given a reason for the rejection.

RAMP’s Executive Director is Ann Lee, who has been very involved in various campaigns and as a precinct chair for over forty years. John Baucum, the group’s Political Director, is the Chairman of the Texas Young Republicans and former President of the Houston chapter. And RAMP’s Treasurer Bonnie Lugo sits on the State Republican Executive Committee.

The fate of their application was decided in executive session, meaning that it was not public and members of that session are not permitted to speak about it.

“This is an abuse of power, and signals to Republican activists that our hard work can be thrown to the wayside based on the whims of a select few, none of whom can be held accountable,” says Zoe Russell, who is the Assistant Executive Director for RAMP.

She adds “there’s been plenty of intellectual diversity within the GOP on display at the Texas Republican State Convention in the past. For example, the RPT consistently grants booth space to groups promoting opposite sides of the immigration debate. Allowed, too, have been lobbyists. We agree with this kind of inclusive representation. These are the debates we should welcome, not stifle. But when it comes to RAMP, the RPT has arbitrarily denied us the right to represent our many Republican members.”

The group argues that statistics show they are very much not a fringe group either, with 53% of Americans supporting legalizing marijuana and 63% of Millennial Republicans opposing prohibition. According to a survey conducted by the Texas Young Republicans, over 75% of the group’s members support replacing arrests for small amounts of marijuana possession with a citation. An even larger majority supports medical marijuana.

The Republican Liberty Caucus of Texas disapproved of how RAMP was treated as well.

“It is disheartening that at a time when we should be working to expand the party the party leadership has decided to start excluding a group which is mostly lead by young activists who have the good of the party at heart,” they said in a statement. “The new generation of Republicans, who have grown up in the era of the failed War on Drugs, are more sympathetic to the message of compassion and tolerance which RAMP represents. We should welcome those young voters, not shut the door in their faces.”

Russell asks, “Is this the future we want for our Republican Party? RAMP’s members are of the belief that if you disagree with a view held by a significant portion of the Republican base, civil debates on the matter should be held. Resorting to suppression is a sign of intellectual weakness.”

She continued, “If the Republican Party is to thrive both in Texas and nationally, it must stop eating its young, and treating hard working activists as useless, simply because members of a backroom committee disagree with them on one issue. This act by the RPT signals that a significant portion of Republicans, including the vast majority of Republicans under 40, are not welcome or valued—even if we agree with 99% of what happens to be in the ever changing Republican Party of Texas platform.”

The 2016 Republican Party of Texas State Convention will be held in Dallas from May 12-14, 2016.

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a 30 year old journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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