“Bad law needs to be dealt with; we don’t need to follow laws blindly,” said 86-year old Ann Lee.
You have never heard of of Ann Lee. Most people — outside of Texas — haven’t. But the grandmother is rocking the Republican boat. She is the founder and executive director of RAMP (Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition).
Before the start of the recent Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Lee held court one afternoon in a hotel near the convention center. “The puzzle to me is why Republicans look at this legislation as though the law began with Moses; when you understand how it happened in 1937 beneath President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Why Republicans defend that is beyond me,” said Lee.
A steadfast pro-life political conservative, Lee experienced her come-to-Jesus moment about banning marijuana following her son’s misfortune in 1990. During recuperation, the junior Lee informed his mom marijuana afforded him relief unlike the manufactured pain relievers and other medicines.
Lee, who originated in Jim Crow-era South, says she lived under evil racist laws as a child. She claims drug prohibition is the latter-day equivalent of Jim Crow and must be replaced, as well.
RAMP’s treasurer Bonnie Lugo claims she was an anti-drug evangelist until she met Lee while the two ran for the same seat on Texas’s Republican Executive Committee.
Lugo’s first impression of Lee? “She was this crazed woman” pushing for marijuana legalization. Lee convinced Lugo to do her own investigation. When she did, Lugo found out marijuana is safer than liquor or tobacco.
“Once you find your party lied to you, it’s simple to understand the rest,” said Lugo.
Lugo is upset. Too many Republicans followed sixty years of indoctrination that says pot is a gateway drug leading to more harmful drugs. “It’s very hypocritical to be pro-life and anti-medical marijuana,” she said.
When questioned if RAMP has strategies to push for the legalization of other drugs, Lee responded, “This is what I can say grace over. I can’t manage something else.”
RAMP isn’t a typical pro-marijuana group. Lee, a conservative, enjoys using her insider standing to strive for legalization and against something she terms “America’s discriminatory drug policy.”
To know RAMP, you have to know its history.
When her son’s wounds left him in a wheelchair, he informed his parents that pot was giving him some relief from the constant pain.
“It was something I didn’t desire to overhear,” Lee remembered. “I believed the propaganda the state put out.”
“After prayer and study, my husband and I understood we were mistaken; marijuana was sound medicine and everybody who needs it should be permitted to get it.”
The tipping point for the pair came in 2012 when she and her husband visited a five member NORML panel conversation and discovered three were Republicans.
That began the journey leading to the beginning of RAMP.
What’s Driving Mrs. Lee?
Lee is motivated by things deeper than her firsthand familiarity with medical marijuana. In the Jim Crow south of her adolescence, she was upset with how scare Christians were who talked about racial bigotry.
Now she is an “elder stateswoman” and she doesn’t intend to neglect the moral commission to talk against current forms of inequality.
“The idea that penitentiaries are designated the new plantations, and they’re packed with young men of color — that is what drives me to do what I do.”
The organization recognizes it has an uphill struggle. They’ve grasped a thing or two about governments. RAMP’s Communications Director Hunter White says the initial guidance he tells people in influencing reform is to know and speak with state representatives.
“The greatest that I can tell people, especially veterans, is you can’t be fearful of a legislator giving you pushback,” White said.
White suggests picking the fights. Phoning a representative or starting an educational gathering may be more productive and less perilous than civil disobedience. White points out his guidance is accurate in conservative counties of Southern states where protesting for marijuana can land a person in jail.
“You must to make it understood that you want change,” White said. “Feel easy to represent yourself; remember you have freedom. Scientific proof is on your side, but you can’t do the civil disobedience thing everywhere.”
As for Ann Lee, she was thrilled to be at her second Republican National Convention. “I was excited about going. I knew it would be busy. Security was a big issue, and our bus was checked and escorted by police. In 1984 it was different. Things have changed,” said Lee. “I don’t believe I have a decision when I see the wrong that has been done. If I’m going to live with myself, I must do this.”