The elephant-eared candidates of the presidential grind house are set to battle it out tonight in Boulder, Colorado in what will be the third Republican debate. Although mainstream media reports indicate that tonight’s public interrogation will focus on the economy and the livelihood of the American working class, there is a distinct possibility that these nomination-starved political figures will be forced to confirm their views on marijuana legalization and their plans for the industry if they are handed the keys to the White House.
It might be naive to consider that any of the candidates will stray too far from their previous comments on the issue, but considering the debate is located in the shallow grave of prohibition—Colorado—the presidential hopefuls might have to offer the public more on the issue of legal weed than their typical canned spiels.
Since the Centennial State launched the first legal cannabis trade in the United States over a year ago, it has been faced with a number of challenges ranging from the inability to work with banks to fighting off the wolves of the DEA.
In fact, all of the states that have legalized the leaf for either recreational or medicinal purposes have continued to be bullied by the DEA and the Justice Department. Yet, so far, the majority of the Republican candidates have sided with states’ rights, arguing that Uncle Sam should keep his army of drug enforcers out of those places that have deemed marijuana a way of life. However, a few candidates—some of which even have a fighting chance of winning the Republican nomination—have said they will tear down the cannabis industry and launch the drug war into overdrive if they win next year’s election.
Let’s face it, not a single Republican really supports marijuana legalization—not even the old college stoner Jeb Bush or Mr. CARERS Act himself, Rand Paul. Many of them have simply pledged their support for allowing states to continue on a path of legalization, but it would be easier to get them all red-eyed and high in the same room than it would be to get them to say the words, “Prohibition is a dead scene.”
Clearly, if a Republican takes over the White House in 2017, the marijuana movement, at least in regard to any level of federal reform, is doomed—doomed for at least the next four years.
Nevertheless, it is important to point out that some of the candidates are worse than others. So, in the spirit of “know thy enemy,” here’s where tonight’s Republican gladiators stand on the issue of marijuana reform.
In 1990, Trump told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that “we’re losing badly the War on Drugs,” and that “you have to legalize drugs to win that war.” However, earlier this year, during a Conservative Political Action Conference, he indicated that he is opposed to the legalization of marijuana, saying, “They’ve got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado, some big problems.” Yet, Trump says he supports states’ rights on the issue and supports medical marijuana “100 percent.”
During a recent interview, Carson said that if he becomes the next president, the United States would “absolutely” continue the War on Drugs. Not only that, but the Republican said he would “intensify” those efforts and that he disagrees with marijuana legalization.
Rubio told Meet the Press back in August that “I’m not in favor of legalizing marijuana” and that “the federal government needs to enforce federal laws” in states that have made it legal. “I think this country already is paying a terrible and high price for the impact that alcohol has had on families, on addiction, on the destruction of marriages, homes, and businesses, and now we’re going to legalize an additional intoxicant,” Rubio said. “It’s very simple: when you say something is legal, well you’re basically telling people it isn’t that bad. It can’t be that bad, it wouldn’t be legal if it was.
Although Bush admits to smoking marijuana 40 years ago, he thinks legalization is a bad idea, but agrees, “States ought to have the right to do it.”
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Fiorina said that “we are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like beer” but that she respects “Colorado’s right to do what they did” and that she hopes the rest of the nation is watching the experiment closely.
In 2014, Cruz didn’t speak too highly of Colorado’s newly launched legal pot market, but his position changed at the beginning of this year. He now believes ,”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.”
Huckabee recently compared states ignoring federal pot laws to Kentucky’s Kim Davis refusing to issue marriage licenses for gay couples. “How come it’s that liberals are okay with not keeping the federal law when it comes to the marijuana laws and it’s OK for the states to ignore it, but if it comes to a county clerk in Kentucky who doesn’t believe that she can abide by a federal court ruling, not even a law, then she goes to jail? Do you see where conservatives sometimes their heads explode because they say, ‘Boy, there’s one set of rules for people on the left and a total different set of rules for people on the right?’”
Chris Christie has vowed to crackdown on legal marijuana states if he becomes president. “As President of the United States, I will enforce the marijuana laws, because I believe marijuana is a gateway drug that causes our children and adults to use other drugs. I think it lowers productivity. I’m against recreational use… And I am for limited medical use not mandated by the federal government, but permitted by the federal government.”
Kasich believes legal marijuana is a “terrible idea,” but will respect a state’s right to do so. “I would try to discourage the states from doing it,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll defeat it in Michigan and Ohio, but if states want to do it… I haven’t made a final decision, but I would be tempted to say I don’t think we can go and start disrupting what they’ve decided.”
Paul, who is one of the main sponsors for the CARERS Act, told students this week at the University of Colorado-Denver that “I’m not here to advocate for marijuana, but I’m here to advocate for freedom. And you know what, if I’m president I’m going to leave Colorado the hell alone.”
Tonight’s Republican debate will air on CNBC at 8 p.m. EDT.
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