Marijuana Goes Center Stage at Republican Debate

Moderator Jake Tapper asked the "marijuana question" at last night's Republican Debate on CNN, setting off a three-way wrestling match between Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. Even Carly Fiorina jumped in with her opinion. Donald Trump and the rest of the presidential wannabes stayed out of it.

Here are the highlights:

Tapper: Will you enforce federal laws again marijuana?

Paul: This is a crime for which the only victim is the individual… I'd like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration… The federal government has gone too far. The War on Drugs has had a racial outcome and has really damaged our inner cities… I don't think the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment. (Then to the panel) If we left it open maybe we could see how many people smoked pot in high school.

Bush: 'He's talking about me. So 40 years ago I smoked marijuana and I admit it. I'm sure that some other people might have done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people. My mom's not happy that I just did. But that's true.'

Here's the deal: We have a serious epidemic of drugs that goes way beyond marijuana.

'What goes on in Colorado as far as I'm concerned, that should be a state decision.'

Paul: In Florida, Gov. Bush campaigned against medical marijuana (Amendment 2 in 2014)… Kids who had privilege like you don't go to jail, but the poor kids in the inner cities go to jail. I don't think that's fair. 

Bush: 'Medical marijuana was on the ballot. There was a huge loophole. It was the first step towards getting to a Colorado place. As a citizen of Florida. I voted no.'

Christie: 'I think the War on Drugs has been a failure, but that doesn't mean we should be legalizing gateway drugs.'

Look at the way people get used and move onto other drugs when they use marijuana as a gateway drug… That's why I'll enforce federal law while still putting an emphasis on rehabilitation, which we've done in New Jersey.

Paul: Gov. Christie would go into Colorado and if you're breaking any federal law on marijuana even though the state allows it would put you in jail…

'I would let Colorado do what the 10th Amendment says… Colorado made their decision and I don't want the federal government interfering.'

Christie: In New Jersey, we have medical marijuana laws that I supported and implemented… I'm not against medical marijuana… But I am against the recreational use of marijuana. If he (Paul) wants to change the federal law, get Congress to pass a law to change it and get a president to sign it.

Paul: He (Christie) doesn't want to make it about medical marijuana, but what if New Jersey's medical marijuana contradicts the federal law? I don't think we should be sending the federal police in to arrest a mother for giving a medicine to her child for seizures.

Fiorina: 'I agree with states' right, but we are misleading young people when we tell them marijuana is just like having a beer. It's not. The marijuana that kids are smoking is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago.'

Who won the marijuana portion of the debate? 

Clearly, Paul landed the best blows. But his refusal to separate medical from recreational marijuana was disingenuous, as Christie duly noted. Speaking of disingenuous, Christie boasting that he favors medical marijuana when he did everything in his power to stall implementation and limit access was a big joke on patients in New Jersey, who weren't laughing. With only three of the mandated six dispensaries open for business, New Jersey's MMJ program still has a long way to go. Plus, Christie dragging out the old "gateway drug" warhorse smacked of Reefer Madness desperation.

Bush should be commended for his candor in admitting to using marijuana when he was 22. So that was the last time, right, Jeb? And Fiorini's well-rehearsed sob story about her daughter Lori Ann's death from alcohol and prescription drug abuse really had nothing to do with marijuana. It was sheer grandstanding. 


Paul: B+

Bush: C

Christie: D-

Fiorina: F

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.