HOUSTON -- A Republican group will hold its inaugural meeting Saturday in Houston as it tries to convince GOP leaders that the legalization of marijuana is a conservative stance, not just a left-wing liberal idea.

You have the right to control yourself. And to me that's what Republicans stand for, said Ann Lee, founder of RAMP Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. The drug war goes against every principle we have of smaller government, fiscal responsibility and less intrusion in your private life.

A lifelong Republican, Lee says her original belief in pot as the devil s weed began to change when her son Richard suffered a devastating injury. A workplace accident left him a paraplegic. Suffering from constant nerve pain he says marijuana proved the only effective means of pain management. He moved to California where he could receive medicinal marijuana and has since become a well-known marijuana activist in Oakland.

And he said marijuana is good for me. And that was a sea change for us, said Lee.

So Ann Lee and her husband formed RAMP to encourage GOP leaders to consider changing the traditional stance on marijuana, medicinal use, and legalization. Saturday the group holds its inaugural meeting at the office of the King Street Patriots in northwest Houston. Several speakers are scheduled including former US Border Patrol and US Customs agent Terry Nelson, and Nathan P. Jones, Ph.D., a drug policy expert at Rice University s Baker Institute.

A majority of conservatives now support reforming marijuana laws, said RAMP spokesperson Jason Miller. People are sick and tired of the government's prohibition of this plant.

It's an argument normally heard from politicians further to the left of the political spectrum. Politician, musician, and former gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman has made legalization the cornerstone of his campaign for Texas Agricultural Commissioner. He believes, as has been argued in Washington State and Colorado, that legalization takes power away from drug dealers and makes pot a regulated, taxed commodity.

Ann Lee agrees and argues that legalization is not solely an argument owned by the left.

Freedom, she said when asked why she supports a liberalization of marijuana laws in Texas and across the country. Why should your government tell you and your doctors what medicine is best for you? To me that is a very Republican theory.

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