"Marijuana Was Darn Good Medicine!"—Meet the 86-Year-Old Republican Woman Fighting to Legalize Weed

Apr 20 2016

“Marijuana Was Darn Good Medicine!”—Meet the 86-Year-Old Republican Woman Fighting to Legalize Weed

April 20th. 2016

Before Ann Lee’s son, Richard, was paralyzed in an accident, she never imagined that she would become a fierce advocate for marijuana legalization. The 86-year-old Texan is a lifelong Republican, and considers herself a good Christian with strict conservative values.

But after Richard Lee’s accident in 1990, he was left dealing with an extremely painful condition known as spasticity, which affects people with spinal chord injuries. Ann Lee tells The Influence how her son came across cannabis and how it changed his life: “When he was in the hospital here in Houston, he chanced upon an article by two doctors who were researching spasticity and marijuana…he got out of the hospital and got the marijuana. I can remember to this day,” she continues. “It was in August of 1990; he said, ‘Mom and Dad, marijuana is good for me.'”

Having been exposed to a lot of misinformation, she was troubled by this at first. “We foolishly conformed to all the propaganda and lies that are put out about marijuana. People saying that it’s the weed of the Devil.”

But then: “We got involved after a lot of prayer and a lot of research. Marijuana was darn good medicine!”


Nowadays, her support for marijuana legalization doesn’t stop at medical use: “The more we looked at it, the more we realized that marijuana is a much more safe recreational drug than alcohol,” she says. “A person should at night be able to enjoy a little marijuana, as I do a glass of wine. I think marijuana needs to be taxed, controlled and regulated like we do alcohol and tobacco….we have certainly not learned from history. Prohibition was not the answer.”

Richard Lee eventually moved to Oakland, California where he became a prominent activist for medical marijuana, even founding his own educational facility: “Oaksterdam University was started by our son in San Francisco, and it’s a trade school for people who want to be in the Marijuana business. It was the first of its kind!”

Ann Lee supported her son’s activism for decades, then in 2012 she was asked to fill in for a panel held by NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). And much to her surprise, she found that three of the five panelists were, like her, Republicans. She had long maintained that marijuana prohibition was contrary to the conservative values of self-determination and small government—now she found that other conservatives out there shared this view.

Following this meeting, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) was born. It currently has chapters in five states and several thousand supporters around the country.

Ann Lee’s opinions about the drug war and its attendant systematic racism are emphatic. She remembers the Jim Crow era with an intense disgust—”The first time I saw black and white people who were friends was when I went to college…it seemed like the natural thing to do”—and considers Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow to be a crucial text. She despises the culture of mass incarceration.

Ann Lee admits that most of RAMP supporters so far come from the libertarian wing of the GOP, but she sees herself as a more traditional conservative: pro-life (though she’s open to some compromises), pro-states’ rights and pro-business. RAMP has tried to fit itself into the mainstream conservative movement but Lee and her allies still face a tough challenge to achieve this. More Republicans are still against legalization than support it; however, most Republican millennials are in favor, which bodes well for the future.

RAMP has been hoping to make an impact at conservative events and conventions (it also had a stall at last year’s Drug Policy Alliance-organized Reform conference in Washington, DC), and Ann Lee sees no reason her group shouldn’t continue to gain traction.

As for the 2016 presidential race, when Ann Lee spoke with The Influence, she was still undecided on which candidate to support.

  • Dean Becker

    In the 1920’s and 30’s the US endured the first prohibition, against alcohol, which led to massive violence, overdose deaths, gangs and widespread corruption. The people of the time saw that this prohibition was not accomplishing any of its stated goals and brought it to an end. Now, with drug prohibition we are seeing near identical problems of corruption, gang-related violence, and overdose deaths. What is it about this “modern” prohibition that allows it to reach towards eternity?

    • Robert C. Muench

      Certain agencies and people make a great deal of money because of drug bans. They have powerful friends in government and they are not willing to get off the gravy train.

    • Joe Minella

      IMO, it’s the power of endless propaganda plus the disease of apathy plus greed that, despite overwhelming evidence, allows this disgusting crap to go on ad nauseum and beyond.

    • David Martin

      8 dead in Ohio. Reported evidence of a Mexican cartel hit. Yes or no Mexican gangs claim territorial rights on US soil and the DEA & local authorities appear powerless to do anything about it. Build a 100′ high wall doesn’t do a thing when they’re already here. Thanks for protecting us from ourselves but not the criminals DEA. Our tax dollars at work? You’re FIRED

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  • BlackRoughRider

    An awesome lady!!! Keep fighting the good fight!

  • Carol Meyer

    ill join the fight to ms ann lee I have medical issues that I need it for too

  • David Martin

    The Republican party also has a racist fascist wing & cannabis prohibition is right up their alley. Check out their act in the Ohio legislature on HB523. You can buy it and pay taxes on it, but you can’t smoke it or grow it. How’s that fit into Originalist legal theory? Constitutional conservatives? Ha!! What a farce.

  • Clint

    Like Mrs. Lee, I live in Texas and am a staunch supporter of medical and recreational marijuana legalization. Responsibility is key, of course. Still, it should be legal in Texas and everywhere.

    Sadly, the governor, many in the state legislature, and many residents in Texas do not support even medical marijuana, and even it remains almost completely illegal in Texas. A year or so ago, the governor signed a bill which made CBD oil legal for only a *very* small number of Texans. It’s meant for those who suffer from chronic epilepsy, but only in certain circumstances. Do you have chronic pain? Too bad. Cancer? No weed for you. Mental illness? Sorry. PTSD? No can do. Neither CBD oil or marijuana itself are legal for *any* of those things in Texas, plus more areas where medical research has shown it to help medically.

    I find this a bit hypocritical especially of the governor, who was paralyzed in an accident as a young man and who reportedly suffers from some chronic pain.

    I think the following story made national news. A few years ago, there was a family in Texas whose young daughter had debilitating and extremely frequent seizures. I don’t remember how many the little girl had, but I believe it was at least one every single day. Her parents tried every possible medical remedy to treat her, but none of the accepted treatments worked. Not even CBD oil worked. Marijuana did. The family eventually moved to Colorado, not because they wanted to leave Texas but because the only treatment that worked was illegal in the state. Fast forward to late last year. Thanks to medical marijuana, the little girl’s seizures virtually *disappeared.* She went from having at least one every day to having less than 5 in an entire year! While I know that won’t necessarily work for everyone, I think it’s cruel to deny anyone, much less children, effective medical treatments, even if they come in the form of marijuana.

  • Tara Wolfe

    Good job Mrs Ann Lee..! We will support you. Because cannabis cures of some medical issues such as headaches, migraines and also acts as a painkiller.