CONCORD, N.H. -- If Newt Gingrich needed a reminder that he wasn't in Iowa anymore, it came rather quickly during his first appearance here Wednesday, when he was pressed on three separate occasions about the overreaches of federal drug policy.
During a town hall-style appearance in Concord, the former House Speaker said he had no interest in exploring drug decriminalization, arguing that such efforts haven't worked in Europe. Contra Gingrich, however, Portugal has had some success with decriminalization initiatives.
Pushed a bit later on the incarceration rate related to petty drug crimes, Gingrich responded, "I think the best thing is to get young people not to do drugs and then you won't be dealing with criminals that you just described."
A third resident of the "live free or die" state argued that the founding fathers had been far more lenient about marijuana than the current political class. "I think Jefferson or George Washington would have rather strongly discouraged you from growing marijuana and their techniques with dealing with it would have been rather more violent than our current government," Gingrich replied.
On that last point, the record is a bit hazy. The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim, author of the book "This is Your Country on Drugs" said that during his research he found no evidence that the founding farmers smoked weed but that they grew hemp "for sure."
"I couldn't find much evidence for pot-smoking in America until the early 20th century, but in the 19th century it was a popular extract in patent medicines," Grim said. Academic literature on the matter says much the same.