Image by Tak Toyoshima
With Presidential campaigns shaping up, marijuana reform looks to be an issue that most candidates hope to avoid. Republicans especially are in a tough spot with primary voters being mostly opposed, while general election voters are known to be more favorable on the issue. Being vocal against the green leaf is certain to alienate younger voters who the candidates need, which is probably why some hopefuls are still weighing their options and trying to please both sides.
And so there are innumerable questions … For one: Is Senator Rand Paul the wildcard that reformers need in the GOP race? Liberals may not love Paul on a lot of economic issues, but with his vocal and outspoken support of marijuana reform, he’s likely to have many progressives cheering for him on this issue just the same. In addition to sponsoring hemp legalization bills, he’s been working across party lines and teaming up with star New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker on federal marijuana decriminalization.
On the prickly side of things, expected GOP frontrunner Jeb Bush came out firmly against legalization. Not much of a surprise after Bush campaigned against Florida’s 2014 medical marijuana initiative, which fell just short of passing despite support from the majority (57.5 percent) of the state electorate. In Florida, a passing initiative needs to break a 60 percent threshold.
It only gets worse with the rest of the field. There’s Marco Rubio, who also campaigned against medical marijuana patients in Florida. For years, the hypocritical Rubio has touted his working class roots, and that he’s the son of a bartender. That’s great, but he has failed to mention how alcohol kills tens of thousands of people every year. Meanwhile, Rubio refuses to admit if he has used marijuana, which leads to zero deaths a year.
Finally, Texas Governor Rick Perry backs the rights of states to decide on marijuana legalization, but backpedals in neglecting to flank it federally. He did support sentencing reforms for nonviolent offenders in his state, so perhaps he’s not as much of a monster as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who straight-up opposes changing federal cannabis laws. Then again, either would probably be better than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has done everything in his power to stop his state’s medical pot law from actually helping patients. He’s of course firmly opposed to legalization, as is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who touts himself as a libertarian Republican but nonetheless insanely rebuked President Barack Obama for not enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized.
On the Democratic side, expected nominee Hillary Clinton has staked out a “wait and see” stance, citing the ongoing “experiments” in states that have legalized. She might be waiting to see if she’s challenged by an upstart like Paul (should he win the GOP nom), who would actually push her on the issue, forcing Clinton to take a real stance.
All of which means that, for reformers hoping for change on a national level, the campaign of Rand Paul is the only one worth supporting. Not because he’s likely to win, but because he is the only one who will push the other candidates to be more reasonable on weed.