Rand Paul is first serious presidential candidate to be serious about marijuana reform

By Oscar Pascual |

Sen. Rand Paul announced that he is running for president in a speech in Louisville Tuesday, effectively making him the only presidential candidate to address marijuana law reform as a major campaign issue.

Paul has historically supported legislation to decriminalize marijuana, most recently by helping to introduce the CARERS Act into the Senate that would legalize medical marijuana on a federal level.

The Hill points out the rest of Paul’s pot history, which includes support for industrial hemp production and research, and criticism of marijuana-related prison sentences, which he calls “ridiculous.”

Paul’s stance on marijuana reform has caught the attention of cannabis advocates, and will likely help him win more support for his 2016 bid.

“His message on marijuana reform is going to be very attractive to young people and communities of color,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, in an interview with the Hill. “It’s definitely going to force Hillary Clinton, or whoever is the Democratic nominee, toward that direction, because they’ll be worried about losing their base.”

Paul was even critical of fellow presidential hopeful Jeb Bush and his pot hypocrisy earlier this year, when a Boston Globe profile revealed Bush’s heavy marijuana use as a college student.

“This is a guy who now admits he smoked marijuana but he wants to put people in jail who do,” Paul told the Hill earlier this year. “I think that’s the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that.”

Even though Paul is running on a pro-pot platform, it doesn’t necessarily make him the ideal candidate, as he also supports a massive $190 billion increase in defense spending while opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriages.

Regardless, the fact that Paul has included cannabis in his platform has given more credibility to the legalization debate, advocates say.

“Marijuana clearly has arrived as an issue at the forefront of mainstream American politics,” said Marijuana Majority chairman Tom Angell in an interview with the Hill. “The fact that Rand Paul is speaking out about this, and that he’s being praised and not criticized for it, is setting an example for other politicians.”

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