Potheads to Palin: Join us

You know what? That’s a hell of an idea.

With Sarah Palin set to speak Tuesday before the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s national convention, advocates of decriminalizing marijuana are feeling left out.

So Dave Schwartz, campaign manager of Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, is planning to offer Palin $25,000 to come speak before “supporters of a regulated marijuana market in this country.”…

The offer comes, however, with a string attached: In exchange for the $25,000, Palin not only has to speak at one of NSML’s upcoming events, she must also “acknowledge the fact that marijuana is just as legitimate a recreational substance as the substance she is talking about at the WSWA convention (in fact, it is objectively much safer) and endorse taxing and regulating marijuana in Nevada and throughout the U.S.”

She can’t do it if she’s running in 2012. Conservative Republicans, i.e. her base, oppose legalization 20/77; a bold stroke on this front would scare a bunch of them into Huckabee’s camp. If she’s not running, though, then I can see an argument for it. One of her big problems, especially with centrists, is the media’s caricature of her as some sort of fire-breathing theocon, which she isn’t. She’s made moves to chip away at that — the Rand Paul endorsement, and of course campaigning for Maverick instead of Hayworth — but it’s hard to scramble a narrative purely through associations. She needs an issue, and this one is fairly low-cost with a few major benefits. Taking a modest pro-legalization position (i.e. “I don’t use it myself and don’t want kids using it, but…”) would (a) electrify the debate over a hot-button issue, which she obviously relishes doing (see, e.g., “death panels”), (b) prove that she doesn’t mindlessly follow Republican orthodoxy, which would force centrists and libertarians to give her a second look, (c) mindfark the media, which would be on her side for once, and (d) reestablish her political identity as a western, not southern, conservative. The west was, after all, the only region of the country that supported legalization when Gallup polled the issue in October.

Granted, there would be short-term costs like a temporary dent in her “true conservative” cred, but she’s evidently willing to absorb those dents to campaign for McCain and she’s getting a lot less out of that than she’d get from doing this. She could even pitch the issue to grassroots righties on fiscally conservative terms: Think how much we can reduce spending by eliminating police patrols, prison housing, etc., for nonviolent marijuana offenders! Exit question: What am I missing?