Federal cannabis policy is a major issue that impacts lives, jobs and budgets across the nation and actually impacts the global Drug War as well. It would only make sense for 2016 presidential candidates to address the fact that four states and our nation’s capital has legalized marijuana, with a host of states expected to end prohibition in the coming years. Colorado and Washington have already generated $200 million in new revenue from marijuana sales, with Colorado’s cannabis taxes outpacing state alcohol tax revenue.
Not only does a president’s position impact the economics of states with regulated marijuana systems, but it also demonstrates the consistency of his or her conservative or libertarian principles as well as the candidate’s law enforcement priorities. It was great to see the Republicans finally talk about marijuana in the GOP debates after completely ignoring the issue in the first debate.
“Forty years ago, I smoked marijuana. I admit,” said Bush, the former Florida governor, after Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) had called him out without naming him. “My mom’s not happy that I just did.”
Paul, who opposes strict laws punishing marijuana users, used Bush’s case to illustrate how the law treats wealthy drug users differently: “Kids who have privilege like you do don’t go to jail. But the poor kids in the inner city still go to jail.”
That prompted a response from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who — while urging compassion for young drug users — also said he would use federal power to override some states’ laws to allow some marijuana possession and use. “I am against the recreational use of marijuana,” Christie, saying that drug users’ families, employers and children are victims of the use.
As the International Business Times reports, Carly Fiorina equated marijuana with more dangerous drugs, instead of the more sensible comparison to alcohol: “We are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having beer. It’s not
Steve Bloom over at Celebstoner has extensive coverage of the Republican back-and-forth and offered up some grades of the cannabis policy exchanges:
Clearly, Paul landed the best blows. But his refusal to separate medical from recreational marijuana was disingenuous, as Christie duly noted. Speaking of disingenuous, Christie boasting that he favors medical marijuana when he did everything in his power to stall implementation and limit access was a big joke on patients in New Jersey, who weren’t laughing. With only three of the mandated six dispensaries open for business, New Jersey’s MMJ program still has a long way to go. Plus, Christie dragging out the old “gateway drug” warhorse smacked of Reefer Madness desperation.
Bush should be commended for his candor in admitting to using marijuana when he was 22. So that was the last time, right, Jeb? And Fiorina’s well-rehearsed sob story about her daughter Lori Ann’s death from alcohol and prescription drug abuse really had nothing to do with marijuana. It was sheer grandstanding.
It was refreshing to see the 2016 GOP candidates discuss cannabis policy, especially hearing Rand Paul finally have an opportunity to show his libertarian foundation on criminal justice and Drug War reform. Jeb Bush wisely took a states’ rights position, but was called upon his past positions and hypocrisy. Christie and Fiorina were clearly out of touch of the mainstream on the issue. I look forward to hearing from Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, his fellow outsider Ben Carson and the rest of the GOP field on the record in the next and future debates.
(Featured photo credit: AP Photo/Chris Carlson)