Republican Presidential Candidates Engage In A Serious Discussion About Marijuana Policy — It’s A Start

The federal government ought not to interfere with state laws legalizing and regulating the use and distribution of marijuana, according to several Republican Presidential candidates who spoke on the issue during tonight’s Presidential debate.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and business executive Carly Fiorina weighed in the issue. Consistent with previous statements, candidates Bush, Fiorina, and Paul expressed support for allowing states to move forward with marijuana policies that are divergent from federal prohibition — with Sen. Paul speaking most strongly in support of states’ authority to explore legalization alternatives. Senator Paul also spoke of the need for Congress to enact the The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections and impose various changes to federal law.

By contrast, Gov. Christie reaffirmed his desire to use the power of the federal government to override state-approved laws legalizing the retail production and sale of cannabis, which he called a “gateway drug.” Governor Christie implied that he would not take such action in states that have regulated the use of medicinal cannabis, such as in his home state of New Jersey.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who shares Gov. Christie’s position, did not comment.

The fact that the majority of candidates who spoke on the issue expressed support for the sanctity of state marijuana laws is hardly surprising. According to the most recent Pew poll, an estimated 60 percent of Americans agree that the government “should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow use.” State-specific surveys from early primary states, including Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, report even greater voter sentiment in favor of this position.

But while it is encouraging to see some, though not all, Republican candidates deferring to the principles of federalism in regard to the rising tide of public support in favor of marijuana law reform, far too many politicians in both parties continue to deny the reality that public and scientific opinion are in direct conflict with federal marijuana policy. In the 2016 Presidential race, it is inherent that the candidates from both political parties recognize that advocating for marijuana law reform is a political opportunity, not a political liability.

National polls now consistently show that majorities of voters — particularly male voters, Democrat voters, and younger (Millennial) voters — embrace ending cannabis criminalization altogether, and replacing it with a system of legalization and regulation. Yet, to date, no leading candidate from either political party has embraced this broader position. That is unfortunate. In the past Presidential election, marijuana legalization ballot measures in Colorado and Washington proved to be more popular at the polls than either Presidential candidate. The 2016 Presidential hopefuls ought to be more concerned with positioning themselves to be on the right side of history than on trying to appease a vocal minority that is woefully out of touch with both changing public and scientific opinion.

38 thoughts

  1. Yeah! I watched this on TV. I agree with your title, it’s definitely a start! Obviously these stuffy republican candidates didn’t have very many kind things to say about cannabis, but it’s still the first time in my own adult life that I have seen the word marijuana mentioned in such a serious event. If it’s finally being taken seriously by the likes of CNN and the presidential candidates, then it’s just a matter of time for sensible policy to take hold.

  2. Apparenly; Repetition is in orger here. CSA US Code Title 21, Sub chapter 1, Part F clearly respects states’ rights. This is noted in Nebraska’s petition to grant leave against Colorado.

    Governor Chubsy Wubsy seems to have no understanding of the CSA.

  3. Debating what other people can do with their own bodies seems strikingly like talking about more humane ways for “plantation owners” to treat their slaves.

    Good people will always disobey bad laws.

  4. “…far too many politicians in both parties continue to deny the reality that public and scientific opinion are in direct conflict with federal marijuana policy. In the 2016 Presidential race, it is inherent that the candidates from both political parties recognize that advocating for marijuana law reform is a political opportunity, not a political liability.”

    Marijuana may seem like a minor issue compared to some of the other stuff going on in the world, but the inability to develop a modern, science based approach to marijuana can serve as a ‘litmus test’ for predict the ability to competently helm our country in the 21st century.

  5. Fiona – Sorry to hear of your child, and you’re right, marijuana isn’t the same as beer, it’s safer, and less addictive. It should not be put in the same category as the drugs that likely did kill your child.

    Christie – You can’t call it a gateway drug unless you also call alcohol and cigarettes gateway drugs. They are also always present when young adults ‘party’. I was forever addicted to cigarettes, and am still addicted to alcohol. I have never had withdrawals or cravings when I didn’t smoke weed. Take it or leave it. Studies have shown marijuana is less addictive than even caffeine. So no, it is no more of a gateway drug than the sex that also accompanies these folks just wanting a break from our government’s chokehold on their lives, which brings up debt, such as our ever-growing college financial loan sharks.

    Different drugs are used for different purposes, and young adults are smart enough to know which drugs will do what ‘for’ them. And anyone who has used them enough is smart enough to tell you marijuana is the least of anyone’s worries. We speak from experience… do any of you? And I’m not talking about the 1 or 2 times you may have ‘experimented’. That’s not experience.

    When I smoked, I was not lazy, and have always had more ambition than most others I’ve known. These are propaganda generalizations and need to be laid to rest.

    I’ve had 2 successful careers while smoking, and when I wasn’t smoking (read, drinking), what I had was 2 failed marriages. Weed does not affect everyone the same. I smoked from 17 on and off to 31, and then again for a couple years in my 40s. I was more productive than ever during these times.

    In my experience, weed makes lazy people lazy. So does alcohol. Lazy people will be lazy with or without something to blame it on.

    I am a contributing member of society, pay my bills and taxes like anyone else, and I would like a choice as to how I’m going to relax and spend ‘my time’.

  6. Here’s a good presidential candidate for marijuana legalization. I don’t think he is all that popular but still worth mentioning none the less:

    [Paul Armentano responds: Martin O’Malley is giving a press conference in Denver today where he will formally pledge to reschedule cannabis. We will have a post on his position, as well as those of other Democrat candidates, on the NORML blog later today.]

  7. Oh republican politicians are all about freedom and rights! As long as it strictly coplies with ONLY their outdated, unsubstantiated, bubblesque views. My GOD Gov Christie, quit huffing the BK, put down the supersized coke and double Whopper with cheese and bacon and that extra side of onion rings and look in a mirror. You have some nerve to ev÷n be on that stage. 13 stooges!
    At least a few of the candidates are somewhat listening to the citizens of AMERICA. Did I just compliment a Bush?

  8. Not much for nuanced intelligent discussion was done by any of the GOP’ers. They gained no support from the pro-legal MJ crowd and that will bite them in the behind during the general election, especially if the Demo candidate takes a strong pro stance.

  9. The Charlie Brown cartoon with one character ALWAYS pulling the football away. Remember that and apply it to what ALL politicians say.

  10. I think that the “WASHINGTION MENTALITY” really showed up in last nights debate question on marijuana with only 4 people engaging on this issue. Rand Paul was the only one up there that made any type of sense on this issue. I also think that Jack Tapper is a TOTAL JOKE – I mean he asked each canadiate directly whose picture they thought should be on the 10 dollar bill but would not engage each one individually on the issue of marijuana legalization and the pros and cons. What kind of drugs was C.F.son on -I know damn well that he did not die from a overdose of marijuana.

  11. I wonder where the front Runner Donald Trump stands on Legalizing Cannabis.

    We already know Bush, Christie, Jindal,And Fiorina are anti pot. It sickens me that they are against it for medical reasons too. They misguidingly see it as a gateway narcotic drug rather than a non-addictive medicine.

  12. Being from the red-state Texas, I’ll have to say most republicans are coming around taking the issue seriously and supporting legalization.

  13. these are VOTER approved laws that these #$&&* think they can ignore, the people voted it and a stuffed shirt say,doesn’t matter what you voted for, I’m going to what I want, sounds like someone who gets voted in will then refuse to leave because that’s what he wants.

  14. I am not a social media aficionado so it surprised me when CNN narrator Jake Tapper announced that the overwhelming question from the social media set was regarding marijuana. It irritated me that I am so ignorant as to have left myself out of putting my two cents worth in the mix. This is truly eye-opening and points out the collective power of social media and how it can drive home a message. I wither at the thought of enduring nine more republican debates but then think of the opportunity to get our message to the forefront of nationally televised debates. Every blog of every marijuana association, group, entity, etc. should be promoting to every social media user the message to overwhelm the organizations presenting the debates with our demand to end prohibition. We can’t buy that kind of advertising.

  15. This is why Trump is ahead. NO ONE from the establishment listens to anything the people want and we’re TIRED of it. What business is it of the Federal government if I want to enjoy myself in the privacy of my own home, without waking up with a hangover, destroying my liver, and increasing my chances of getting cancer by boozing it up. And I am perfectly capable of completing my obligations on time and with pride. I am formerly a health care professional, who was forced to quit to take care of my ailing parents before they died. I held a top secret clearance in the military, yet today, if I were to “roll one” instead of popping a top, I’d go to jail. This law is outdated and our citizenry needs to hold the “Establishment” accountable for the numerous lives that have been ruined. Apparently Ms. Fiorina has never been present at a frat party, or she might rephrase her ignorant statement about cannabis not being like beer. She’s right. It’s worse. Much worse.

  16. 1. CNN didn’t help the situation any. The question was terribly worded and not directed at all the candidates — basically giving a free pass for the majority of candidates to avoid it. No Republican candidate wants to talk about cannabis on such a grand stage.

    2. Rand Paul cannot debate. He’s had Christie on the ropes in both debates now and doesn’t have the courage to deliver the knockout blow. He couldn’t even bring himself to stand up for ADULTS who use medical cannabis. He did mention states’ rights, but jeez Rand, do your homework! Pot polls are against Christie. Science is against Christie. The ramifications of arresting 25+ million people in half a century, yet pot is more popular than ever, is against Christie.

    3. CNN gave Christie the kid glove treatment. Absolutely no questions about his shady past & present. Pathetic joke, they are.

    4. Carly lost her son to “drugs”. Sorry for her loss, but this is cannabis, not “drugs”.

  17. It is important to get republican politicians on our side but I do not get all giddy about the obvious fear being spread by the front runners except Trump. I too am hoping they will see the light on this subject. The old gateway drug argument and addiction crap was being spread. Most of the youth that are in addiction programs that are forced into them by the courts after they get caught with pot or go to juvenile detention. Some lawyers and judges invest in these addiction businesses. I saw fear of pot and a dangerous world of terrorist to be afraid of as the king pin of the GOP plank. Of course we need the same group that got our country in the worse financial mess I have ever seen to come back and protect us from pot. I believe that at one point the pro pot people are going to have to get tough and stop being a punching bag to make politicians to look tough on crime. These clowns have hurt more young peoples lives under the guise of protecting them. They still want to keep ruining young lives for cash and jobs. I see CALIFORNIA has passed a law to stop law enforcement from grabbing personal property until they get a conviction. It is hard to defend yourself when the police grab all your property basically so you will not have cash to mount a legal defense. I am almost 70 and have watched this propaganda parade shoot this cause down most of my life and always on non scientific facts. My feeling is if this is happening in a cause that we all know what other thing are these leaders lying to us about.

  18. IMHO Christie is a pig. Although I am an Independent who typically votes Republican (based mostly on fiscal principals) I would never vote for him. As a previous blogger noted, I am curious as to Trump’s position. My guess is that he would consider the economic, business potential and would support.

    Although Federal legalization is a “Holy Grail”, I would be somewhat satisfied if workforce drug testing could be squashed. Let’s face it, losing your means of income because of privacy violation is severe. If you can’t be clandestine enough to not get caught otherwise, you are pretty stupid.

  19. Its a start, no thanx to Fat Bastard that says medicinal pot is okay but not recreational. I bet he couldn’t wait to get out of there and kick back a few beers and oreos for recreation.

    Sorry Fiorina lost her son to drugs. But maybe he was rebelling against fascist parents.

    If Jindal really wants to shed the Stupid Party label, he should stop being stupid about pot.

    The Bush crime family has no credibility on any issue, particularly on pot.

    Trump “on the issues” has it that he would legalize drugs and use the taxes for education and treatment. This is one issue he wins hands down.

    14 hypocritical assholes except Rand Paul.

  20. Rand Paul was really bad in this exchange. When the other guy (Christie?) derailed to more important health issues like alzheimer, obesedy, cancer,… well thats when you say marijuana is the medizin, lol.

    Carly, sorry for your loss. But, sorry again, isn´t it all a bit too convenient to have a scapegoat at hand, isn´t it.

  21. I’m sorry to piss any hopeful people off, but Bernie sanders, makes way more sense than any other candidates regardless of party affiliation.

  22. Alcohol prohibition lasted from January 1920 until December 1933 13 Years where people where convicted lifesentence for Literally No crime at all. Cannabis Prhibition started in 1937 followed up in 1973 now 78 Years of Stupidity. Thousand if not Millions of People have died because of that stupid Prohibition. People are getting killing every day. USA has created a Criminal environment World Wide. Why? Why? Why? Are Congress and Senate the Dummest people in the World. The fact is: Cannabis is healthy for almost every people. Proved over a period of 8.000 Years. It can be abused. Yes. But so can Alcohol and Training. Love KJ

  23. Prohibition has never worked for the benefit of people seeking freedom of choice and a decision making energy promoting the future. A continued grip on the past mistakes not only guarantees failure again, but it keeps your hands in your back pockets so they are not available to help you defend yourself against disrespect and intolerant derusion.

  24. Marijuana legalization with revenue for education.
    I like Rand Paul better as a Congressman. I just wish he would use revenue from fairly taxed marijuana on public education and I wouldn’t have to give my vote to Sanders.
    . Trump is a chump. He’s regurgitating some of the same racist rhetoric that Anslinger used more than 75 years ago to prohibit cannabis, blaming Mexicans as “rapists and murderers” while our own drug and foreign policies, USAID, DOJ and corporations owned by people like Trump rape and murder Latin American countries for more than a century. And “build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it”?! Please. If we had public education on how to FILL OUT immigration forms immigrants and Drug War Refugees who are already TRYING to legalize their status wouldn’t have to remain illegal or be taken advantage of by greedy immigration lawyers. Hey, here’s an idea Trump; let’s use tax revenue from legal marijuana sales to educate USCIS employees who don’t even know how their own immigration policy works! You say you’re “not against legal immigration,” so stop supporting agendas that increase human trafficking, violence, drug use, rapes and murders by suggesting to build a “wall” without first educating people who are trying to legalize themselves and their medicine on how to do so!

  25. I like Trump, he’s a Statesman, not a politican. I agree with the idea anything can be abused, even water. My father always said “everything in moderation”. He was a Naval officer for 33 years. If he were alive today I’m sure he would applaud the Citizens of the States that have stood up for their States Rights and God given right of free will and freedom from oppression, as do I. The “gateway drug” myth is true only in it’s associated and trafficed with, hard addictive drugs like heroin and other hard drugs. Drug pushers are against legalization of marijuana, mainly for that reason. The majority of pot useres I’ve known, been there done that since mid 60’s, are adamantly and vocally against hard drug use. Wake up U.S.A., claim your birthrite. You gotta FIGHT! for your RIGHT! to PARTY! TS YAAA!

  26. Rand Paul showed who he truly is a couple of years ago when he wilted during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. She asked him the simple question, would he support discrimination based on race, color or creed? He repeated, like a robot, that he would not support GOVERNMENT discrimination. When she pressed him as to whether or not he would support private discrimination, he retreated to his GOVERNMENT mantra. Afterwards, he whined that she ambushed him with a “gotcha” question.

    Sure, he supports legalization–but it’s only because he supports states rights. The man is just another pampered plutocrat. He’s completely afraid of Rachel Maddow; no wonder he wasn’t able to put the bloviating Christie away.

    @ Julian, please explain to me what it is exactly that turns you off about Bernie Sanders, other than the label socialist?

  27. @Evening Bud,
    I suppose when we corner our elected representatives on policy, they all come up with some ridiculous mantras, and it is at that point that we finally decree that they are all truly aliens from Planet Profit, determined to suck out our brains and work us in their remote plantations of Death across the globe. 😉
    I find it difficult to digest that someone as eloquent and educated as Bernie Sanders has to fall into the “watch and see” crowd over full legalization.
    What in the Hell is there left to “watch and see” in Colorado’s marijuana legalization policy? Both candidates, Paul and Sanders, are catering to the marijuana lobby $ in Colorado, yet both are sitting on ‘decriminalization and medical” without embracing a full reform of the C.S.Act with legal marijuana revenue for public education! Did the DOJ already threaten their lively hoods THAT badly? Or are we to believe they think we are just that ignorant as to settle for a half-baked decriminalization platform?

    Now here is the dilemma for Rand Paul: He believes fundamentally that there should be no income tax. He’s like one of these people you start talking marijuana policy with at a bar or on public transportation, then all of the sudden they say, “”And what do you think about the aliens at Roswell…?!” and you realize to your dismay that you’re talking to the tin-hat crowd. After all, his father, Ron Paul, chanted “Abolish the Department of Education,” subsequent to ” Abolish the DEA,” right in front of me and a crowd in Austin Texas. What are we supposed to do with the kids who can’t afford a private education Paul? Just let them mill about the streets until they eat themselves and create a public health crisis? Or should we feed them to the rich Congressman now? It’s like a used car salesman… just keep them saying “yeah” until they don’t know what the Hell they’re “yeahing” to. (Sorry, Rand, I love what you did on the Reduced Mandatory Minimum laws you passed with Senator Booker, but you need to take a stand on full legalization and drop the “abolish public schools and income tax” vomit… or at least clean it up!!! Ewww!!!).
    So I suppose you’re somewhat calling my bluff out on ol’ Paul, Evening Bud, even though a part of me wishes that Rand Paul would say something sensible on spending legal revenue from marijuana sales on public education… of all kinds.

    Sanders is still on the back burner for me until he vows the same common sense goal of spending legal and fairly taxed marijuana revenue on public education… of all kinds… not just children, but federal employees who don’t even know how their job WORKS, much less how to council anyone ELSE!Why in God’s name aren’t we educating THEM??!! How can you call yourself a “socialist” if you don’t perceive a priority on spending a new revenue stream on public education? Why isn’t Bernie talking about Canniversities? Is he really a socialist? You don’t even have to believe in the “flat tax” .. which Rand Paul ironically proposes… to be a socialist. You just have to believe in equal distribution of wealth.

    With that said, I want to shed some disinfecting light on the definition of the word “socialism,” as we in the marijuana legalization community know full well how conflicting definitions of words like “legalization” can be such terrible deterrents in conversation and activist efforts.
    Wikipedia defines socialism as follows:
    “Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership and/or social control[1] of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy,[2][3] as well as a political theory and movement that aims at the establishment of such a system.[4][5] “Social ownership” may refer to cooperative enterprises, common ownership, state ownership (achieved by nationalization), citizen ownership of equity, or any combination of these.[6] There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them.[7]”

    Holy $#!+, What an ambiguous word with too damn many contradicting definitions. I could be stoned out of my mind, eating the loaded side of a medible and realize that these varying definitions of “socialism” contradict one another.
    So what do we do? We listen to the debates (Ughhhh…) And we write the candidates, and we read the “weed leaves,” As attorney general of Vermont recently said about the first state in the Union that is likely to pass non-voter-initiative, legislatively- passed marijuana legalization. We inhale… and exhale slowly, and we keep moving. And every now and then… we celebrate!
    And that’s the best answer I can give you Evening Bud, to the question between Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders for President; To Socialism and for, as the late Yogi Berra would have put it, for an answer that I don’t completely know the question to, even though, I am DEFINITELY going to continue reading the Weed leaves! 🙂

  28. I don’t know what’s up with Rand Paul, he seems like a dumber not quite with it version of his father. Rand believes in Private Law, which is one of the main reason we left England. The England had one law for them and a different more subversive law for Americans. This was based on the idea rich people are better a class of people. Rich people had their own effectively private police which could effectively do what ever they wanted to the non-rich. This continued into the US as racism against native and blacks, with private law or “privileged law” you can send out your men to collect the escaped slaves and punish and even murder the other freemen helping the slaves escape. What is he point of being against “Citizen United” when all that is again more “privileged law”??? It is an idea he generally supports. Rich people can do what they want, even to other people like toss them in jail for herbs, then steal their labor, and the non-privileged just have to suck it up. The privileged do the same thing and somehow “earn” high positions while normal people get fake criminal records that stop them from being a contributor. Seriously Rand, you need to take your head out of your ass and get serious about your leadership style.

  29. @ Julian,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and comprehensive reply. I know I tend to get a bit snipy sometimes, and try–try–to temper that.

    As regards Paul, I completely concur. He’s also said publicly that he doesn’t promote the partaking of MJ per se, just that he sees it as a states issue. He also said he believes smoking MJ makes people “dumb.”

    I also understand your frustration with Sanders. I support probably 95% of his stances on the various issues. However, I too find myself frustrated with his seeming refusal to commit himself on the MJ issue–as is the case with virtually every other candidate running for prexy next year.

    I can’t help but believe that it does have something to do with the old socialist fears about drugs, and how they’re used to “deaden” the masses. Maybe I’m wrong on that. Certainly the socialist presidents of Uruguay have not found that to be a barrier to their legalization of pot in their country. Nor have the “European Socialist” leaders of the Netherlands, though as you know, pot is not legal, but “tolerated” there. (This is a prime example of what you’re talking about with the various definitions of socialism!)

    I myself have called Sanders’ offices twice on this issue. You can’t really go by the responses you get on the phone by the sundry office people, but I will say that my call last week was treated somewhat more seriously than my initial call about a month ago. The young lady in the latter call completely agreed with my premises and said she’d pass the message up (as most usually tell you).

    I tend to lean toward the Dems on this issue, in any event, Sanders or Hillary in this instance, if only because the sitting Dem prexy, Obama, did not obstruct the legalization in the four states and DC in the past couple of years. I don’t believe that any Republican (except Paul) had he/she been in the white house would’ve had the same hands off approach. In fact, I’m positive that had McCain or Mitt won, there’d be no legalized states today.

    Of this current group of GOP prexy-wannabes, again, only Paul strikes me as a person who would allow legalization to occur. I cannot find myself trusting any of the others on this issue. A few of them “sound” slightly reasonable on the matter, but what would really happen once they’re in office, surrounded by their Pharma donors?

    Again, Julian, thanks for the reply. You did in fact bust me–I was indeed trying to get a read on your Rand Paul comments, and you answered it.

    Best always, Evening Bud

  30. @ Dave Evans,

    I wholeheartedly agree with your Paul comments.

    Regarding your comments about cops, I’ve seen that many times in my life. We all know how cops act toward regular people these days; most act like complete hard-asses. But I’ve also seen the way they usually act around the rich. Most are all giggles and wagging their tails. It’s a sickening double standard.

    Pot smokers have traditionally been high on their radar–their double standards on that issue are even more stark.

  31. If you really care about legalization and change in this country, Stand With Rand! His major positive policies are even mentioned in this article. He even does better than Bernie, or Hillary. He’s about America and the Constitution, and that’s about the pursit of happyness and all that stuff you learned about in grade school. I know it will feel awkward voting in the Grand Old Primaries and polls, and identifying as a Republican doesn’t feel right on some level, but this is the only way we can bring about true change on these draconian drug policies.

  32. I have watched this debate over cannabis for nearly 40 years. POliticians no longer have a choice to be ignorant of the fact that the majority support national legalization. I see a changing of the poltical guard coming. Those selfproclaimed defenders of the poltical process and the people rights, should probably wake up of they may find themselves out.

  33. I live in federal housing in CT. It’s something that I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?

    PEACE, lisa

  34. If they GMO it, that would put it at a whole new level. Natural organics are the best in my opinion. hybred is okay. I don’t need GMO’s, in anything. I can’t understand this society, allowing big pHARMa to rule US. Is it that many are already under their mind control? I believe Mari breaks that chain, could that be the main reason they outlawed Mari J?

  35. Thinking everyone’s going to be equal, that’s alien. Already have social system, SOCIAL securIty SysteM. Organicly grrown Mari J breaks the bond of big pHARMa.

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