'America's Worst Sheriff' Joe Arpaio is even going soft on weed

'America's Worst Sheriff' Joe Arpaio is even going soft on weed

VicesFebruary 26, 2018 By Brian Frederick

Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is running for a U.S. Senate seat. And what that means, is the Trump-loving 85-year-old is going to be a little more personable, a little more vocal on charged partisan topics, and ... softer on weed.

Because if politicians wish to stand a chance of winning anymore, they must go to where the people go. 

You may remember Arpaio as the infamous sheriff of Maricopa County who appeared on several LOCKUP episodes forcing inmates to wear pink and live in tents under the 120 degree Arizona sun. Or from when he borrowed a tank from the Army and had the words "Sheriff Arpaio's War on Drugs" painted on it to drive around the Fiesta Bowl parade. Or when he reinstated chain-gangs. Or from his posse used to enforce unconstitutional immigration laws. Or by his support of state efforts to just randomly stop brown people and ask for papers. Or when he was labeled "America's Worst Sheriff" by The New York TimesOr more recently, when he was pardoned by President Trump after being convicted of criminal contempt of court (which he received for not following a court order to stop racial profiling).

He's had an interesting career. One Arpaio says he's hardly finished with.

During a recent segment on Larry King's Politicking, Arpaio sat through and answered a series of questions from the host on controversial topics he'd be facing in an upcoming election. Arpaio says yes he would have voted for the tax break, wants a "citizenship pathway" for DACA dreamers, and kind of, sort of, wants medical marijuana to be a thing ... reluctantly.

"Do you favor legalization of marijuana?" King asks.

"No I don't," Arpaio says, then abruptly shifts his answer to something more potent in supporting a winning campaign. "I do, I wish there was something more we could do with the medical dispensaries to help our veterans and people that are sick. I still can't understand why you can't go to s drug store on a prescription and get this type of drug. But, I, uh, the medical dispensaries, I kind of support if it can help the sick people."

He doesn't go so far left, however, to completely flop on the hard-lined law enforcer he's been for the past several decades.

"But I don't support using or selling marijuana across our nation," he adds. "Actually it's against the law. It's against the federal law anyway."

This isn't the first time he's gone against a storied Republican tradition of hating weed, however. In 2015, he spoke at a pro-pot event to seniors about the benefits of medicinal cannabis, then saying he wants those in need to get the help regardless if it's a scheduled drug or not.

"I feel that if veterans, senior citizens, and other people that are sick that need help, especially to stay alive, maybe we should look at that," said Arpaio. "If this is one thing that really will help them, the medical part of it, and is done legitimately, no diversion, I don't know, what's the difference going to the drug store and getting a prescription."

This isn't likely as much of a change of heart as it is going to where his voters are. Last year, a Gallup poll was released that showed an eye-opening shift in cannabis culture. Turns out, a majority of Republicans in America are cool with weed, too. Anyone running against that mindset automatically put themselves at a mathematical disadvantage for votes. 

So yeah, he "kind of" supports legalizing weed in some capacity — not exactly pom-poms and champagne. But for someone who used to be called "Nickel Bag Joe" because of his love for busting any amount of dope he could find, it's a surprising shift to the dank side.

 
[cover photo AP/Ross D. Franklin]