Will Rand Paul Be "First Top-Tier Presidential Candidate…to Make "Marijuana Reform a Major Campaign Issue"?


The Hill thinks so:

Paul, who will announce his White House bid on Tuesday, has argued forcefully that states should be allowed to adopt their own policies on the use of medical marijuana without fear of federal interference.

He introduced a bill in March that would prevent federal prosecution of patients in states where medical marijuana has been legalized.

He's separately offered support for the growth of industrial hemp, and worked to win Senate passage of legislation in 2014 to allow states to grow hemp for research.

More broadly, Paul has called for a serious review of the nation's policies on illegal drugs. He's an outspoken critic of decades-long prison sentences for the sale or possession of marijuana, which he has called "ridiculous."

From a drug policy reform perspective, these are baby steps for sure. But Paul has captured the attention and enthusiasm of hard-core activists in a way that no other major-party pol has managed.

"His message on marijuana reform is going to be very attractive to young people and communities of color," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. "It's definitely going to force Hillary Clinton or whoever is the Democratic nominee toward that direction, because they'll be worried about losing their base."

The Hill quotes a number of GOP operatives who are plainly worried that Paul's stance on pot will alienate older voters. Yet it's worth noting that the country as a whole has shifted toward legalization of pot and 2016 will see marijuana legalization initiatives in at least two states, California and Ohio.

Last year, Reason TV interviewed Democratic consultant Joe Trippi who noted that it was libertarian themes that provided the GOP with its best path forward with millennial voters and the country as a whole. Here's a 50-second snippet of that convo: