Are Republican Candidates Quietly Tolerant Of Legal Marijuana?

By McCarton Ackerman 10/28/15

A recent Bloomberg op-ed argued there are more than a few secret weed supporters in the GOP.

First Republican Debate
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Several Republican presidential candidates seem to be quietly showing their support of legalized marijuana, or at least their unwillingness to get in the way of it, by citing states’ rights as a reason to not obstruct on the issue, according to a recent op-ed from Bloomberg columnist Joshua Green.

Green noted that most of the Republican candidates have avoided the topic of marijuana unless prompted by a voter or during a debate. But when forced to address it, they have voiced their personal disapproval of it while citing the 10th Amendment as a reason for not going further than that.

Jeb Bush called Colorado’s marijuana legalization “a bad idea, but states ought to have the right to do it,” while Ted Cruz echoed similar sentiments by stating that he “personally [doesn’t] agree with it, but that’s their right." Even Carly Fiorina, who lost a child to drug addiction, said Colorado is “within their rights to legalize marijuana and they are conducting an experiment that I hope the rest of the nation is looking closely at.”

These statements also reflect a continually growing tolerance among Republicans regarding marijuana legalization. A new Gallup poll finds 58% of Republicans support legalizing pot, compared to 36% in 2005 and 25% in 1995.

“My theory is that Republicans are looking for a ‘safe landing zone’ on the issue of legalization, and states’ rights is it,” said Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association in Denver. “Nothing is certain, but I’m cautiously optimistic about where this is heading.”

Not all Republicans are onboard, however. New Jersey governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie told Face the Nation last June that, if elected, he would prosecute any state that allowed recreational use of marijuana. On the other hand, he does support legalizing medical marijuana and even expanded a program in New Jersey to allow children who qualify for it to have edible forms of cannabis.

“For the people who are enamored with the idea with the income, the tax revenue from this, go to Colorado and see if you want to live there,” said Christie. “See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado where there’s head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high. To me, it’s just not the quality of life we want to have in the state of New Jersey, and there’s no tax revenue that’s worth that.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.