At debate, GOP candidates signal support for marijuana

By Oscar Pascual |

The 2016 presidential election’s batch of Republican candidates debated each other on marijuana for the first time Wednesday night, although most were in agreement to leave the decision to the states.

In the election season’s first Republican debate, the majority of the candidates lauded the achievement of legalizing marijuana in Colorado and other states that have passed laws allowing recreational marijuana use. MSNBC reports.

“I don’t think that the federal government should override the states,” answered Rand Paul, possibly the GOP candidate most concerned with legalization. “I believe in the 10th Amendment and I really will say that the states are left to themselves.”

“I would let Colorado do what the Tenth Amendment says,” Paul added. “Colorado has made their decision. And I don’t want the federal government interfering and putting moms in jail, who are trying to get medicine for their kid.”

Despite his historical support for marijuana reform, Paul and his pro-legalization stance are no longer an outlier. Candidates Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina also supported states’ rights to legalize.

“What goes on in Colorado, as far as I’m concerned, that should be a state decision,” said Jeb Bush, who also admitted to smoking marijuana during his youth.

“Forty years ago I smoked marijuana, and I admit it,” Bush said at the debate. “I’m sure that other people might’ve done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people. My mom’s not happy that I just did.”

“I agree with Senator Paul. I agree with states’ rights,” added candidate Carly Fiorina.

While many candidates passionately supported states’ rights to vote on new cannabis laws, the presidential hopefuls weren’t nearly as supportive for cannabis itself.

Despite supporting marijuana reform, Paul still called pot use a “crime,” and followed up by stating that marijuana’s only victim is the person using it.

Fiorina then delivered a heartbreaking cautionary story of having to bury her child due to drug addiction, although she failed to mention that her daughter was addicted to alcohol, not marijuana. Fiorina, however, was quite critical of the War on Drugs and how it effects prisons.

“We do need criminal justice reform. We have the highest incarceration rates in the world. Two-thirds of the people in our prisons are there for non-violent offenses, mostly drug related. It’s clearly not working,” Fiorina said.

The GOP’s new attitude towards marijuana marks a sea change in Republican politics, advocates say.

“You saw a tip of the iceberg moment tonight,” said Rick Wilson, a veteran Florida-based Republican consultant, to VICE. “Remember, a few years ago, this would have been, ‘I would never smoke marijuana, it’s a disgusting devil’s weed.’ You would have had all the moral preening.”

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