The Republican Candidates on Marijuana

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 5, 2012

    As we approach the middle of January, Election 2012 is in full swing. Fresh off of the Iowa Caucuses, the six remaining Republican candidates move on to New Hampshire for their January 10th primary. As a non-profit organization, we are not permitted to endorse candidates for public office, but we hope this guide helps inform you of the marijuana policy positions of the various candidates.

    (Note: NORML is not endorsing any of the candidates listed below and this is intended only as an educational overview of the candidates positions on marijuana policy.)

    Republican Presidential Candidates 2012

    Mitt Romney

    Governor of Massachusetts (2003-2007)

    Public Statements:

    “People talk about medicinal marijuana, and, you know, you hear that story: People who are sick need medicinal marijuana. But marijuana is the entry drug for people trying to get kids hooked on drugs. I don’t want medicinal marijuana. There are synthetic forms of marijuana that are available for people who need it for prescription. Don’t open the doorway to medicinal marijuana.” 

    (“Ask Mitt Anything” Event in Bedford, NH 2007 – source)


    “We’ve got to not only continue our war on drugs from a police standpoint but also to market again to our young people about the perils of drugs.”

    (New Hampshire Voter Event, August 17, 2011 – source)


    “I believe marijuana should be illegal in this country. It is the pathway to drug usage by our society, which has made great scourges; it is one of the great causes of crime in our cities. I believe if we are at a state were, of course we are very concerned about people who are suffering in pain, and there are various means of providing pain management. And those who have had loved ones that have gone through an end of life with cancer know nature of real pain. I watched my wife’s mom and dad going through cancer treatments suffering a great deal of pain, but they didn’t have marijuana, and they didn’t need marijuana. Because there were other sources of pain management that worked as effectively.”

    (Oct. 4 2007 at St. Anselm’s College, Manchester, NH – source)


    “But having legalized [medical] marijuana is, in my view, an effort by a very committed few to try to get marijuana out in the public and ultimately legalize marijuana. They have a long way to go. We need less drugs in this society, not more drugs. I would oppose the legalization of marijuana in the country or legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes because pain management is available from other sources.”

    (Oct. 4 2007 at St. Anselm’s College, Manchester, NH – source)


    UPDATED 01/09/12:

    “Q: I want to know what you thought about industrialized hemp?

    Romney: About what?

    Q: Industrialized hemp.

    Romney: Industrialized hemp? I’m not quite sure what industrialized hemp is.”

    (Peterborough, NH Town Hall on January 5, 2012 – source)


    “Q: Are you in favor of arresting medical marijuana patients?

    Romney: I’m in favor of the law not allowing legal marijuana.”

    (Tilton School Meet and Greet on January 6, 2012 – source)


    Prior Activity: None


    Ron Paul

    House of Representatives for Texas’ 22nd (1976-1977, 1979-1985, 1997-Present)

    Public Statements:

    “This war on drugs has been a detriment to personal liberty and it’s been a real abuse of liberty, Our prisons are full with people who have used drugs who should be treated as patients — and they’re non-violent. Someday we’re gonna awake and find out that the prohibition we are following right now with drugs is no more successful, maybe a lot less successful, than the prohibition of alcohol was in the ’20s.”

    (Comments Post-Iowa Caucus, 01/04/12 – source)


    “Well, removing [marijuana] from the jurisdiction of the federal government and allowing the states to regulate it, like they would alcohol. And this seems to be strange for a lot of people, but I’m only going back to 1937 when that’s the way it was handled. The states always did this, and I’m motivated strongly also because the states legalize it for the use of medicinal purposes and it is helpful to people who have cancer or are getting chemotherapy. So this is not a huge radical idea, it’s something that was legal for a long, long time. And the war against marijuana causes so much hardship and accomplishes nothing. So I would say that marijuana, as far as causing highway problems, is miniscule compared to alcohol, and yet we knew prohibition of alcohol was very bad. So this is just getting back to a sensible position on how we handle difficult problems. And, for me, it should be the states.”

    (Kudlow Report, June 23, 2011 – source)


    “The role of the federal government is to protect our liberties. That means they should protect our religious liberties to do what we want; our intellectual liberty, but it also should protect our right to do to our body what we want, you know, what we take into our bodies.”

    (Jay Leno Show, Dec. 2011 – source)


    UPDATED 01/12/12

    “Q: Why don’t the other candidates talk about drug policy?

    Ron Paul: I think they are easily intimidated and they think people are going to hold it against them if they talk sensibly about drug policy.  Yet I think they are about 20 years behind the time. I think prohibition of anything doesn’t work, the only thing we should prohibit is violence.”

    (Manchester, NH January 10, 2012 – source)

    Prior Activity:

    Co-sponsored HR 2306: Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011

    Sponsored HR 1831: Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011


    Rick Santorum

    House of Representatives for Pennsylvania’s 18th District (1991-1995)

    US Senator from Pennsylvania (1995-2007)


    Public Statements:

    “There is a difference between legitimate issues of character — someone’s behavior — and the issue of whether someone who has done something wrong in their life, now because of those mistakes, can’t talk about what is the right thing to do. Politicians who have stumbled personally, are capable of making values-based arguments. I don’t think that’s hypocritical. That’s a dangerous line that many folks tend to cross over — that because you made a mistake, you can’t talk about this or that issue. We all make mistakes.

    For example, I smoked pot when I was in college. Does that mean that I can’t talk about drug use? Does that mean that I can’t talk about how that’s a bad thing? Of course not. You learn from those experiences.

    Even during that time, I knew that what I was doing was wrong. But just because I failed, that does not mean that I shouldn’t be able to talk about it. That’s a different issue. It’s not hypocrisy, as long as you don’t say, ‘I thought it was right, and now think it was wrong.’ If you knew what was going on, and mostpeople do, you have moments of weakness. It happens to all of us. But that should not deter people from talking about what they believe is right.”

    (National Review, March 2011 – source)


    “Well, yeah, I admitted you know, back when I was running for the Senate, that when I was in college that I smoked pot and that was something that I did when I was in college. It was something that I’m not proud of, but I did. And said it was something that I wish I hadn’t done. But I did and I admitted it. I would encourage people not to do so. It was not all it’s made up to be.”
    (Piers Morgan Tonight, August 31st, 2011 – source)


    “I would think that [legalizing marijuana] would be an activity that is not consistent with American values.”
    (Ames Straw Poll, September 2011 – source)


    “I am adamantly opposed to the legalization of marijuana and other illegal narcotics I believe that this would lead to increased drug usage, especially among young people. While it is true that many Americans blatantly defy federal laws against the trafficking, sale, and use of illegal drugs, I believe a greater number of people are deterred from illegal drug use by the threat of arrest and prosecution.”

    (1998 Constituent Letter Supplied to NORML – source)


    “I believe that the drugs which are currently illegal should remain illegal. I am committed to maintaining the federal government’s role in the “war on drugs”, which is fought on many fronts by federal agents, local law enforcement, substance abuse counselors, teachers, parents, and concerned citizens.”

    (1998 Constituent Letter Supplied to NORML – source)


    UPDATED 01/09/12:

    “Q: As a champion of family values and keeping America strong, would you continue to destroy families by sending non-violent drug offenders to prison?

    Santorum: Uh, wow. The federal government doesn’t do that.”

    (College Convention 2012 in Concord, NH – source)


    “Santorum: I guess I would take the opinion that federal laws are laws that are in place right now that say these are narcotics, right?  I don’t know, I assume they are…

     Audience Member: I’m sorry, they’re not.

     Santorum: Ok, alright, I don’t know my medical marijuana laws very well. I know should know everything, but I don’t, I apologize, I’m trying my best. But I think they are a hazardous thing to society. So I would..

     Audience Member: How did you form that opinion?

     Santorum: I formed that opinion from my own life experiences, and having experience that…I went to college too. So, I would make the argument that states have the rights, but they don’t have the right to do anything they want to, states don’t have the right to sterilize people. They did at one time, but we said, “No, we aren’t going to do that anymore.” States under the constitution probably have the right to do it, just like they have the right to do marijuana laws…legally, but I don’t think they morally have the right to do things that are harmful to the people in their community and therefore I think the federal government should step in.”

    (College Convention 2012 in Concord, NH – source)


    “Q: I’m a marijuana user should I be arrested?

    Santorum: Well, depends on what the laws in your state are, I guess.”

    (Hollis, NH on January 7, 2012 – source)


    “Well you know, obviously state drug laws are the principle drug laws. I have concerns about obviously drug use and its impact on our society. So, I would say that the federal government does have a role, that states don’t go out and legalize drugs, there are drugs that are hazardous to people, that do cause great harm to both the individual as well as to society as a whole. The federal government has a role to make sure that those drugs are not in this country and not available and that people who use them illegally are held accountable. Ideally, states should enforce these laws, but the federal government has a role because it is a public health issue for the country.”

    (Nashua, NH on January 9, 2012 – source)

    Prior Activity:

    Voted ‘Yes’ on HR 3540 in 1996 to add an additional $53 million (raising the total to $213 million) to international narcotics control funding, and pay for it by taking $25 million from international operations funding and $28 million from development assistance.


    Newt Gingrich

    House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th District (1979-1999)

    House Minority Whip (1989-1995)

    Speaker of the House (1995-1999)

    Public Statements:

    “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.”

    (New Hampshire Voter Event, January 2012 – source)


    “I would continue current federal policy, largely because of the confusing signal that steps towards legalization sends to harder drugs…I think the California experience is that medical marijuana becomes a joke. It becomes marijuana for any use. You find local doctors who will prescribe it for anybody that walks in.”

    (Yahoo! News Interview, November 28th, 2011 – source)


    “I don’t have a comprehensive view. My general belief is that we ought to be much more aggressive about drug policy. And that we should recognize that the Mexican cartels are funded by Americans. In my mind it means having steeper economic penalties and it means having a willingness to do more drug testing.”

    (Yahoo! News Interview, November 28th, 2011 – source)

    “I think that we need to consider taking more explicit steps to make it expensive to be a drug user. It could be through testing before you get any kind of federal aid. Unemployment compensation, food stamps, you name it.

    It has always struck me that if you’re serious about trying to stop drug use, then you need to find a way to have a fairly easy approach to it and you need to find a way to be pretty aggressive about insisting–I don’t think actually locking up users is a very good thing. I think finding ways to sanction them and to give them medical help and to get them to detox is a more logical long-term policy.”

    (Yahoo! News Interview, November 28th, 2011 – source)

    UPDATED 01/09/12

    “Q: I’m a recreational drug user, should I arrested?

    Gingrich: No you shouldn’t be arrested, but you also shouldn’t do it.”

    (January 4, 2012 at Concord, NH Town Hall Meeting – source)


    “Gingrich: There is a general belief over the last couple hundred years that people who are drug addicted citizens are not capable of participating as independent citizens. They are not capable of exercising independent judgment. So if you look at cocaine and heroin addicts, they loose the ability to be fully participating citizens.

    Q: That doesn’t seem to match with the consistency of how many people seem to use drugs in this country. So, I’m saying well over the majority of individuals in this country use or have used drugs, what you are saying is the majority of individuals are incapable of participating…

    Gingrich: No, what I’m saying is even among the majority of those who have would agree they shouldn’t be legalized.

    Q: What polls are you referring to?

    Gingrich: The polls in terms of legalizing heroin and cocaine, there’s never been any support for that.

    Q: Oh, well I’m talking about marijuana.

    Gingrich: Well…I’m just talking about cocaine and heroin.”

    (Gingrich Town Hall in Concord, NH, January 4, 2012 – source)


    UPDATED 01/12/12

    “Every place where drugs become legalized, matter of fact is more people on welfare, more people who are dependent, more people with bad health outcomes, fewer people who are able workers who can pay attention on the job, and a drain of money into illegality.  Because immediately behind legalized marijuana, comes cocaine and heroin. And the very people who were busy selling marijuana branch into even more aggressive sale of the harder illegal drugs.  So, I think it is a big net economic loss and a job killing idea.”

    (Florida, 2009 – source)

    Prior Activity:
    Introduced and Sponsored the Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1996

    Rick Perry

    House of Representatives from Texas’ 64th District (1985-1991)

    Lt. Governor of Texas (1999-2001)

    Governor of Texas (2000-Present)

    Public Statements:

    “Crucial to understanding federalism in modern-day America is the concept of mobility, or “the ability to vote with your feet.” If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California….”
    (“Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington” by Rick Perry)

    “When the federal government oversteps its authority, states should tell Washington they will not be complicit in enforcing laws with which they do not agree. Again, the best example is an issue I don’t even agree with—the partial legalization of marijuana. Californians clearly want some level of legalized marijuana, be it for medicinal use or otherwise. The federal government is telling them they cannot. But states are not bound to enforce federal law, and the federal government cannot commandeer state resources and require them to enforce it.”
    (“Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington” by Rick Perry)


    “[If] you want to go somewhere where you can smoke medicinal weed, then you ought to be able to do that.”

    (Daily Show Interview, November 2010 – source)


    “We can win the war on drugs but we have to fight it first. I know, I have to deal with this.”

    (Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum – source)


    “The Governor does not support legalizing any drug. The Governor supports federal drug laws where appropriate. And while the Governor is personally opposed to legalizing the use of medical marijuana, if states want to allow doctor prescribed medical marijuana, it seems to him that under the 10th amendment, they have the right to do so.”

    (Perry Spokesman Mike Miner to the Washington Post – source)

    Prior Activity: None


    Jon Huntsman

    Governor of Utah (2005-2009)

    US Ambassador to China (2009-2011)

    Public Statements:

    “Question: would you prosecute growers and sellers of marijuana in states where it has been made legal?

    Jon Huntsman: I would let states decide that.”

    (Townhall in Exeter, NH, June 2011 – source)


    “I never saw him inhale.”

    (Huntsman’s Childhood Friend in Politico – source)

    Prior Activity: None

    299 responses to “The Republican Candidates on Marijuana”

    1. Jay Ramey says:

      Other than Ron Paul and Gary Johnson (who is now running as a Libertarian) it is quite unfortunate that these Republicans–who say they want a smaller government and want government to stay out of our lives–do want the government in our lives when it comes to marijuana. This involvement they want is the most intrusive: Taken to jail and locked in cages; SWAT teams kicking in our doors; forced drug treatment.

    2. Lisa says:

      “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.” – Newt Gingrich
      Really Newt?? In 1619 Jamestown colony law declared that all settlers were required to grow hemp. And according to the NAIHC, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. Stupid.

    3. justaNORMLguy says:

      I don’t understand a political party whom preaches a smaller government would want them in our daily lives like this like the previous comment. I just can’t stand the hypocrisy they display just to get some conservative votes…

    4. Paul McDonald says:

      I am truly disappointed in NORML concerning the lack of support for Ron Paul. You guys sucked Obama off when he pandered to you, but now that we know Obama is another POS politician, why can’t you throw your full support behind Ron Paul? Is it the freedoms he supports besides the end of federal prohibition? Have you been won over by the talking heads who despise him? He has been consistent for 30 years, you won’t get burned this time around I assure you.

      [Paul Armentano responds: Seriously, how many different times and ways can we respond to the same question? NORML did not endorse Barack Obama in 2008 and, in fact, our non-profit status prohibits us from formally endorsing any specific candidate. We’ve made this point crystal clear on many occasions, going back many years: http://blog.norml.org/2008/09/12/presidential-candidates-on-drugs/. Ditto for other drug law reform organizations. By contrast, the NORML Political Action Committee can financially contribute to specific people running for office and the PAC has previously donated to Ron Paul, whose staff we have worked with on various pieces of marijuana reform friendly legislation in Congress.]

    5. Seth Miller says:

      When I was in college, I was given an option by “law enforcement” – Make an undercover buy for us, or you can lose everything you have worked for in school.

      I left the University without a degree, something that has set me back many years. The War on Weed pits lifelong friends against each other, makes families think that their children are bad people, and most importantly, is a drag on our society.

      $1000 for a pack of JOB papers and 1/2 a gram of nuggets? Seriously Alabama? No wonder your state is backwards and your children don’t graduate from High School.

      It’s about principles. Ron Paul is the only real choice this year, that’s my endorsement. I’ve never fought in the military, but I have been caught up in the Wars. End the Wars.

    6. NormlFan420 says:

      “I would think that [legalizing marijuana] would be an activity that is not consistent with American values.” -Rick Santorum

      American values? I fail to see how government regulation on a substance less harmful than alcohol is consistent with values such as, you know… FREEDOM.

      Ron Paul seems like the only guy that really understands this. While I may not agree with him on everything, he seems like the least corrupted candidate out of these clowns that are trying to run for office.

      Politics make me sick.

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    8. Joel says:

      Ron Paul got my vote.

    9. Pete says:

      Thanks, guess I’ll have to vote for Obama again.

    10. True American says:


      Mindless drones “vs” Conditioning “vs” Hippocracy.

      Anyway you slice its BS.