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

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 17, 2015

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

    1. Gweedo says:

      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. Raven says:

      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. Bob Constantine says:

      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. Galileo Galilei says:

      “…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. Perry says:

      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. John Doe says:

      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:
      http://thehill.com/regulation/253666-omalley-targets-marijuana-voters

      [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. Anonymous says:

      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. Just An Observer says:

      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. warren says:

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

    10. George Washington says:

      Rand Paul needs to be our next President!

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