Features & Columns

Trump VP Hates Weed,
Loves Big Tobacco

Pence's anti-drug reform stances are part and parcel of his overall
social conservative, Tea Party positions
CANCER MAN: Mike Pence has been a Big Tobacco booster for more than a decade.

Donald Trump's choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate means the Republican presidential nominee stands by a man who is the very embodiment of last century's "tough on drugs" prohibitionist attitude.

Pence's anti-drug reform stances are part and parcel of his overall social conservative, Tea Party positions. He has also been a strong opponent of gay marriage and abortion rights, and a strong supporter of "religious freedom."

Indiana has tough marijuana laws, with possession of even the smallest amount of pot resulting in up to six months in county jail. Possession of more than 30 grams (slightly more than an ounce) is a felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison. Selling any amount more than 30 grams is also a felony, punishable by up to two and a half years in prison.

Pence is just fine with that. In fact, three years ago he successfully blocked a move in the Ohio Legislature to reduce some of those penalties, saying that while he wanted to cut prison populations, he didn't want to cut penalties to achieve that end. "I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties," Pence said.

Pence did sign emergency legislation allowing for needle exchange programs in some Indiana counties last year, but only after initial resistance, during which more than 150 cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in one county alone. His hesitation was in line with his values, as evidenced by his 2009 vote as a U.S. representative to maintain a federal ban on needle-exchange funding.

Pence is also a gung-ho drug warrior when it comes to the Mexican border, having voted to support billions in funding for Mexico to fight drug cartels, as well as using the U.S. military to conduct anti-drug and counter-terror patrols along the border.

Bizarrely enough, there is one drug Pence has no problems with: nicotine. He is an apologist and denier for Big Tobacco.

"Time for a quick reality check," he said in 2000. "Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill."

Pence has been handsomely compensated by tobacco companies for his advocacy against anti-smoking public health campaigns, even though they have proven wildly successful in driving down smoking rates.