How Do GOP Candidates Feel About Marijuana?

May 7th 2015

Sarah Gray

As many as seven states will potentially have marijuana legalization on the 2016 ballot -- Nevada is already confirmed and Arizona, California, Maine, Missouri, Hawaii and Massachusetts are heading that way. If the measures make it on the ballot, and pass, these states could join the ranks of Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. 

A Pew Research Center survey released in April of 2015, and conducted in March of 2015 found that 53 percent of Americans say the drug should be legal. That number spikes to 68 percent among Millennials.

Yet the issue is somewhat split when it comes to political parties. "Nearly six-in-ten Democrats (59%) favor legalizing the use of marijuana, as do 58% of independents," Pew Research found. "That compares with just 39% of Republicans." Very few of the announced 2016 candidates from the GOP field have a sympathetic look towards cannabis. Here are seven important quotes that sum up their stances.

1) Rand Paul:

Sen. Rand Paul is the most open to decriminalizing marijuana, and earlier this year Paul co-sponsored the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act, or CARERS Act, along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) A quote he gave to the Hill in regards to Jeb Bush's stance on marijuana illustrates where Paul stands.

"[Bush is] even opposed to medical marijuana. This is a guy who now admits he smoked marijuana, but he wants to put people in jail who do. 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."

2) Marco Rubio:

The Florida Senator is against legalization and decriminalization. Here is his response to a question asked during an ABC/Yahoo! interview about if he has used marijuana in the past:

"Here's the problem with that question in American politics. If you say that you did and suddenly there are people out there saying 'Well, it's not a big deal. Look at all these successful people who did it.' I don't want my kids to smoke marijuana. And I don't want other people's kids to smoke marijuana. I don't believe there's a responsible way to recreationally use marijuana."

3) Mike Huckabee:

​The former Arkansas governor does not support marijuana legalization. He wrote the following on his Facebook wall in March of 2014.

Those who argued that legalizing marijuana would result in a boom in tax revenues have some preliminary proof. On January 1st, the first stores that legally sold recreational marijuana opened in Colorado. The numbers are now in. They reported $14 million in sales in January, and paid $2 million in taxes. Added to tax revenues from medical marijuana, that totaled monthly tax revenue to the state of $3.5 million. But at what cost? The money is earmarked for youth prevention services, substance abuse treatment and public health. But what is a young person supposed to think when the state says, “Don’t do drugs…even though everyone around you is…and the same authority figures who tell you it’s bad not only condone it, but are also making a big profit off it”?

Huckabee also got into a heated discussion with Tommy Chong about marijuana legalization on his Fox News program several years ago:

4) Carly Fiorina:

Carly Fiornia does not support the legalization of marijuana, and according to Slate she told a young crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference that she herself refused medical marijuana.

"I remember when I had cancer and my doctor said, ‘Do you have any interest in medicinal marijuana?’ I did not. And they said, good, because marijuana today is such a complex compound, we don’t really know what’s in it, we don’t really know how it interacts with other substances or other medicines."

5) Dr. Ben Carson:

Despite acknowledging the the medicinal purposes of marijuana, Carson has called marijuana a "a gateway drug." A quote from a Fox News interview from 2014 highlights his views:

"It tends to be a starter drug for people who tend to move on to heavier drugs, sometimes legal, sometimes illegal, and I don't think this is something we really want for our society. We're gradually just removing all the barriers to hedonistic activity, and we're changing so rapidly to a different type of society, and no one is getting a chance to discuss it because it's taboo...we should sit down and talk about ramifications [of marijuana]."

6) Jeb Bush:

Likely 2016 candidate Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, has yet to announce his candidacy. Despite this, Bush has already answered questions about marijuana and his past use. "I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover," Bush explained to the Boston Globe. “It was pretty common." In 2014, however he opposed Florida's measure to legalize medical marijuana.

"Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire.Allowing large-scale marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts."

7) Chris Christie:

The Governor of New Jersey has yet to announce a 2016 bid for the White House (though there is a rumored timeline for his announcement). However, he has already come out arms swinging against marijuana. When asked in April of 2015 by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt if he would crack down on states that have legalized marijuana Christie said the following:

"Absolutely, I will crack down and not permit it. Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have an enormous addiction problem in this country, and we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through federal law enforcement. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law, and the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it."

8) Ted Cruz

Senator Cruz announced his presidential campaign in March. His spokesperson told the Daily Mail earlier this year that he regrets using the drug as an adolescent, "When he was a teenager, he foolishly experimented with marijuana. It was a mistake, and he's never tried it since." Speaking about Colorado's decision to legalize marijuana at the 2015 CPAC, Cruz said:

"Look, I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called 'the laboratories of democracy.' If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right."

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