Recently, marijuana has become a major issue for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates because of two reasons: the first being that the public has less severe views on the drug, and the second being Colorado’s “prominent place on the political map.”
“(Cannabis) is a topic that 2016 presidential candidates will not be able to avoid or dismiss with a pithy talking point,” stated John Hudak, a researcher at the Brookings Institution that focuses highly on marijuana legalization. “It is one that candidates will have to think about and engage.”
In the Republican party, most candidates are taking up the marijuana issue without any outside forces. For instance, Chris Christie New Jersey Gov., has made it clear that he would enforce federal laws to get rid of pot completely in states such as Colorado. Rand Paul, a Senator from Kentucky, is the first renowned candidate to go to a fundraiser with the cannabis industry. This visit occurred in Denver.
However, marijuana politics reached a climax in a long dispute in the GOP debate on CNN that occurred last week where over 23 million people were tuned in. This focus on the topic is more than likely going to become stronger as candidates head to Colorado for the next GOP debate in October.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a republican from Colorado against legalization stated “It’s a national debate that’s occurring, and Colorado has led the way. I don’t think you can talk about the states’ rights issue without talking about the biggest states’ rights issue of modern time.”
In the past, marijuana has been a taboo topic, however, times are rapidly changing. In 2013, a report showed that for the first time ever, 58% of Americans favored the legalization of marijuana. This year, over 44% of Americans admitted to have having tried pot, which is also a first timer.
“In years past, marijuana was being brought up as sort of a gotcha question,” Hudak said. According to him, the most recent debate “was really the first time in a presidential debate that marijuana was brought up as a public policy.”