Most GOP Presidential Candidates Support Marijuana Federalism

At least eight of the remaining 15 candidates think the feds should not interfere with state legalization.



Last week I noted that Mike Huckabee, despite his opposition to legalizing marijuana for recreational use, seems willing to let states go their own way on this issue. "Let's let Colorado have at it for a few years, and let's see how that works out for them," the former Arkansas governor said in an interview with KCCI, the CBS station in Des Moines. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) points out that Huckabee explicitly invoked the 10th Amendment in the same interview, saying, "I'm willing to let states operate under the 10th Amendment, and I'm willing for the states, if they think that marijuana and the legalization of it is a great thing, you know, I'm willing for them to experiment and find out." With that statement, which led MPP to raise Huckabee's marijuana policy grade from a D to a B–, he joins at least seven of the remaining Republican presidential candidates in saying the federal government should not interfere with legalization:

Rand Paul. "I'm not for having the federal government get involved," the Kentucky senator told Roll Call last year. "I really haven't taken a stand on…the actual legalization. I haven't really taken a stand on that, but I'm against the federal government telling them they can't."

Ted Cruz. "I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called 'the laboratories of democracy,'" the Texas senator said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, referring to marijuana legalization in Colorado. "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."

Jeb Bush. "I thought [legalization] was a bad idea," the former Florida governor said at CPAC, "but states ought to have the right to do it."

Carly Fiorina. "Colorado voters made a choice," the former Hewlett Packard CEO said in a Fox News interview last June. "I don't support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice."

George Pataki. "I'm a great believer in the 10th Amendment," the former New York governor told Hugh Hewitt in April. "So I would be very strongly inclined to change the federal law to give states, when they've had a referenda [sic], the opportunity with respect to marijuana to decriminalize it."

John Kasich. The Ohio governor thinks marijuana legalization is "a terrible idea" but is inclined to let states do it anyway. "I would try to discourage the states from doing it," Kasich told last month. "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."

Donald Trump. At this year's CPAC the billionaire developer, who in 1990 advocated legalization as the only way to win the war on drugs, said he opposes marijuana legalization, which has led to "some big problems" in Colorado. But when asked whether states should be free to legalize marijuana, he said, "If they vote for it, they vote for it." 

So far Chris Christie and Rick Santorum, both of whom get an F on MPP's report card, are the only Republican candidates to explicitly say they would use federal power to shut down marijuana legalization in states such as Colorado and Washington. Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal have made statements leaning in that direction. Ben Carson, who opposes legalization and said last week that he would "intensify" the war on drugs, also has indicated that he probably would enforce the federal ban on marijuana in states that legalize it, although he would make an exception for medical use.

Per MPP, Lindsey Graham "has not taken a strong position on states' rights to establish their own marijuana policies," although in a 2010 letter to a constituent he said, "I don't see a real need to change the law up here [in Washington]." Jim Gilmore opposes legalization, but as far as I know he has not taken a position on the extent of state of autonomy in this area.

In short, most of the remaining GOP candidates favor marijuana federalism, a breakdown that reflects opinion among Republican voters. In a 2012 CBS News survey, only 27 percent of Republicans supported Colorado-style legalization, but 65 percent thought "laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be…left to each individual state government to decide." In a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, just 39 percent of Republicans favored legalization, but 54 percent said the feds should not "enforce federal marijuana laws" in states that have legalized the drug.

[This post has been modified to correct the date of Trump's comments about drug legalization.]

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  1. Like Obama supported not having his various agencies spending time on legalized marijuana as they were kicking in pot store doors? Rick Santorum (R-Gomorrah) and New Jersey Democrat Chris Christie might be the only ones telling the truth here.

    1. Yeah, the "let 'em do it" kind of rings hollow. I'd need to hear them say the words "legalize at the federal level" to take them seriously.

    2. If you compare Kasich's response to the rest of them, his "I haven't made a final decision" isn't quite the endorsement of federalism the rest of them seem to have with their "I personally don't support it but if the voters of the states support it then that's their prerogative and the federal government should butt out".

      1. I will guarantee that if legal pot passes in Ohio, Kasich and the ahole AG DeWine will do everything they can to try and make it impossible to implement.

      2. I can understand why Christie is against the legalization of marijuana. After all, it was all that pot he smoked in high school and college and then pigging-out afterwards that led to his elephant-size weight problems.

        And let's face it, Rick Santorum in the 2012 campaign, after uttering the most establishment phrase EVER spoken, "I had to go along to get along" is only running to build-up his brand so he can sell more books and make more speeches to evangelicals (no one but evangelicals is fucking stupid enough to buy what he's selling).

        And Kasich is lost in some parallel universe that only exists in his mind. His family should get him some help. It's criminal the way they let him roam the streets the way they do.

    3. I disagree. When you get legalization or federalism, it will be under a Republican. It's a little bit the "only Nixon could go to China" thing. A Republican is going to have "not a hippy" clout that it's really tough for a Democrat to muster.

      1. I've yet to see many Democrat leaders wanting to muster any drug enforcement reform.

      2. Yes, there is great wisdom in those Vulcan proverbs.

    4. Republicans are too STUPID to get elected.

      They still haven't figured out that their Wars on Women, Gays and Drugs have already destroyed the party beyond repair.

      They haven't won the female vote in a presidential election since 1988. They've NEVER won the gay vote. I can't even remember the last century they won the youth vote.

      All they are doing is sending the women, gays, youth and their supporters running to the socialists.

      IT'S ALL OVER FOLKS! And the socialists won.

      But hey, dig your elephant feet in Christie and stick to your guns.

  2. Marijuana federalism is going to happen. There will always be states that keep it illegal. I can't see how states that have legalized it are going to ever reverse that or do so anytime soon. The problem is two fold. First, it is not going to come off Schedule 3 anytime soon and getting federal law enforcement to change courses and stop enforcing the federal ban is going to be difficult. Second, since it will be illegal at the federal level and in many states, getting the full benefit of legalization and putting the criminal gangs who deal in it out of the marijuana business is also going to be difficult.

    Things are getting better but they are not going to be that great sadly.

    1. It's Schedule 1, not 3. Simply changing it to Schedule 3 would in itself be a start.

      Another issue is that even in places where it is legal, thanks to licenses, fees and taxes, it's still cheaper to buy the stuff on the black market.

      1. I confuse my schedules. And yes, even where it is legal it is just a crony system like legalized gambling. That is better in some ways but not by much.

        1. When people say they want to see it legalized and regulated, whether they realize it or not they're saying they want enough government involvement to raise the price up to a point where a black market can still thrive.

          It's a fucking plant. Treat it like one. Let people grow it and sell the fucking flowers. Fuck.

          1. I can go along with states regulating the sale of it at stores and such. But, we have got to re-establish the sanctity of the home. It should be totally legal to grow and consume in your home. To me that is the most important thing. I really don't give a shit about the pot clinics and stuff. I care about people's privacy and personal freedom. And under the current legalization regimes as best I can tell you still can't grow the stuff in your home. If you do, the cops show up and arrest you to enforce the cartel instead of a bad. And that is no better than a ban and in some ways worse.

            1. I think you can grow your own in Colorado, but not Washington. And you can grow your own in Alaska and DC too if I am not mistaken.

              I agree very much with your main point. If growing and possession were legal, it would be a very good start. I'm happy about any legalization, but going right into regulated retail with all sorts of extra restrictions is a bit of a mess.

              1. You can grow six plants in Colorado. That part actually kicked in before the retail stores opened.

              2. Growing pot is just advanced gardening. There is more to growing good stuff than just planting it in your garden but it is not that difficult. The ability to grow your own is an enormous threat to the various cronies who want to get rich off of medical marijuana. Yeah, it is easier to just get it from a clinic, but if the price is very high, people will grow their own or form cooperatives where someone with the time and a green thumb grows it for the group. That possibility severely limits the profit margin of licensed sellers. So of course, they are going to do everything they can to make sure the cops keep people from doing it.

                1. The same argument could be made about beer. But home brewing hasn't hurt the beer industry. Quite the opposite, in that many home brewers have gone commercial. Show me a craft brewer, and I'll show you a former home brewer.

                  1. that's on point re: the brewers. Lot of craft places where I live and almost without fail, they began by tinkering at home. And miraculously, their going into business has not resulted in rampant alcoholism. If anything, these places are more like wine bars where the buzz seems incidental to checking out different taste options. Been a lot of fun in expanding my beer horizons.

                  2. Sarcasmic,

                    It hasn't hurt the beer industry but it has made it harder. Given a choice, the beer industry would much rather home brewing be banned and them be free to sell whatever crap they want without fear of competition. And the pot industry is no different.

                    1. I was responding to "The ability to grow your own is an enormous threat to the various cronies who want to get rich off of medical marijuana."

                      Are you now saying you were exaggerating with the word "enormous?" (yeah, yeah, that's what she said)


                    3. A "Schwanstucker" would be a "throbbing swan". You want "Schwanzstucke", a "piece of tail".

                    4. Growing your own makes life much harder and is an enormous threat in the sense that it greatly limits the total profits available.

                    5. Growing your own makes life much harder and is an enormous threat in the sense that it greatly limits the total profits available.

                      Dude, you've got to think scale.

                      I make five-gallon batches of beer. Even if I make twenty batches a year, I'm no threat to a company that spills that much on the floor every week. You need A LOT of people making their own beer for InBev to notice anything on their balance sheet.

                      Same deal with a person growing a dozen plants. Compared to a commercial grower they don't exist. Again you need A LOT of people growing their own for that to matter.

                      And that's just not going to happen.

          2. A truly free market would be best, but I think that the best scenario of legalization we are likely to see is sort of like what they ended up with in DC, where there are no stores or commercial cultivation, but home growing and private sales are OK.

    2. I'd bet they'll move it off Schedule 1 within the next ten years. They might even do it during the next administration, depending on how the next election works out. Scheduling is up to the FDA, and there is plenty of documentation supporting medical uses of MJ, so it would be easy for a president to push for a rescheduling. Alternatively, Congress could take action. That seems a bit more far-fetched, but not entirely out of the question within ten years.

      1. A President who was smart could do a lot to end the drug war without even getting legislation passed to do so. First, he would reclassify marijuana like you say. Second, he would stop the FBI and DEA from going after doctors. Let doctors proscribe opioids and speed with immunity. If you did that, people would stop buying meth and heroin off the street and start getting it from doctors. That alone would take an enormous bite out of the drug gangs' revenue. They would still have cocaine they could sell. But with speed available, even that market would be smaller.

        1. Why not let doctors prescribe cocaine too? It has some recognized medicinal uses (just like cannabis). But yes, Congress has already delegated enough authority to the executive branch that the President has complete control over this issue and could solve it with an executive order if he wanted. And Congress is divided enough on the issue that they wouldn't be able to stop him. Now if only we could elect a president who wasn't a drug warrior...

          1. And you could do it under the guise of medical privacy. The FBI and DEA has no business being involved in your relationship to your doctor. Throw the issue back where it belongs, the accrediting and state licensing boards. If a doctors is just handing out drugs in an unsafe manner, deal with it like any other medical issue, take his license.

            And most people would support that. Everyone I know has run into issues getting necessary pain pills because their doctor lives in terror of the fucking DEA. A simple change in the enforcement strategy would make a huge difference. And it could be sold as "why is the DEA going after doctors instead of drug gangs?"

            1. But doctors who over-prescribe are supplying the drug gangs. A hundred pills here, a hundred pills there. It adds up to truckloads. That's why the DEA and FBI must monitor your relationship with your doctor. After all, you're guilty of supplying drug gangs until you prove you are innocent.

              1. LOL. I know that is what they claim but the only response to something that idiotic is just to laugh.

                1. Idiotic or not, the majority of people seem to believe it to be true.

                2. And the drug gangs would have no trouble filling the gap with heroin if the supply of pills dried up somehow.

      2. Something tells me that if Obama's the one that orders MJ to be rescheduled, he's gonna wait until after Election Day 2016.

    3. 1. I'd bet money I can find stuff written in 1930 predicting there "will always be" dry states.
      2. A Dutch response to the hidden persuaders and their prohibitionists was to graft psilocybin-producing genes onto the truffles only the elite could afford. Let's see Nixon's ballot-switching law nullify that!

      1. There were dry counties for a long time and still are if I am not mistaken. There might not always be states that ban the stuff. Regardless, the problems still remain.

      2. That are still states where the state runs the liquor stores.

  3. The prohibitionists of the early 1900's were so silly. They actually thought they needed a constitutional amendment to outlaw a drug at the federal level. What a bunch of simpletons. Warty should go back a hundred years and yell at them "Bro, do you even govern?!"

    1. Senators were elected by state legislatures and blocked state-sabotaging laws. Glucose states, f'rinstance, were against honest food labeling because of reputation fallout from an arsenic problem in English breweries. The Senate circled wagons to keep several states from becoming a utilitarian monster and ganging up to sacrifice a neighbor to combined looter and mysticism lobbies preaching love, rob, imprison and kill thy neighbor. The wet Liberal Party favored repeal of the 17th and 18th Amendments in 1931, and repeal of the 17th has been advanced in modern libertarian publications.

  4. "I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called 'the laboratories of democracy,'"

    Unfortunately, the context of that quote was this case, as described in the New York Times:

    "New State Ice concerned an ice maker who violated Oklahoma's Ice Act by operating without state permission. Oklahoma believed ice --scarce then, and critical to preserving food -- was a public concern, like electricity or railroads. The conservative court majority, skeptical of all [sic] economic regulation, ruled that Mr. Liebmann had a right to make ice."

    Brandeis dissented - he said the state could tell you whether you could sell ice or not, and in general that the government could experiment with the people's economic liberties.

    Oh, and let me get this joke out of the way.

    1. "The law did not protect the public against badly made ice or incompetent or dangerous delivery services. Nor did it help prevent monopolization of the ice industry. Instead, the law *established* a monopoly: "The aim is not to encourage competition, but to prevent it; not to regulate the business, but to preclude persons from engaging in it."

      "The sole dissenter in Liebmann was Justice Louis Brandeis, notorious for his belief in the
      concept of "destructive competition." In Brandeis's view, the Court was too stringently
      applying the Due Process Clause to prevent states from "experimenting" with regulations of
      industry. Although Brandeis's "laboratories of democracy" metaphor has become a staple of
      federalist rhetoric, it was the obsolete, unhealthy form of federalism that he was advocating, one
      in which citizens' basic rights would be left at the mercy of state governments, and the federal
      guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment left unenforced."

      1. badly made ice

        Soooo... water?

        1. They lost the recipe.

          1. I'm sure it has something to do with... electrolytes.

      2. (I used to be taken in by this sort of phony federalism, until I reflected on the 14th Amendment's Privileges and Immunities clause - I realized that a perfectly fair and natural reading of this clause was to protect economic rights)

  5. And there's still the issue of potentially getting fired from your job if you smoke a joint on the weekend.

    1. But now the employee can publicize the name of the company enforcing superstition. The blacklisting shoe has moved to the other foot.

      1. superstition?

  6. This brings us no new information. Young Paul is an antiabortion impostor, and the rest of the looters realize that to have a prayer of getting their hands in the till and around the throat of reproductive choice they have to sacrifice narcs with guns. This was the situation in 1932 when the Liberal and Democratic parties favored repeal and the Prohibition and Republican parties wanted dry killers gunning down the populace. What they are proclaiming is as new as a reaffirmation of the 21st Amendment. The number of dry states should give a sense of where this is headed.

  7. I follow politics pretty closely. I completely forgot that George Pataki is running for president.

  8. Marijuana "federalism" is weak tea, indeed.

    De-scheduling marijuana should be a non-negotiable position for libertarians. Anything short of that should be regarded as a continuation of the drug war and unacceptable, Period.

  9. I don't care who finally gets elected, or which doesn't, nor what the Fed does/does not do, nor whether, according to Mr "investment advisor with a claimed "near perfect prediction record" [insert advisor name of choice] , we are supposedly in for recession, depression, deflation, hyper inflation, a stock market boom, or whatever .


    Because whatever happens, my entirely self-managed, fully diversified, once per year adjusted long term savings plan will be safely protected and will , 9 times out of 10, grow at an average of 8% per annum over and above the prevailing inflation [or deflation], rate, year in, year out, as it has since 1986 when I started using it.

    Savings plan results 1972-201:


  10. The Kasich bit (and Ohio's situation in general) is interesting...he's trying to shut down marijuana legalization from the right, but the state Libertarian Party opposes it from "the left" (so to speak) as basically enshrining crony capitalism into the state constitution in regards to who gets to sell it. As an Ohio voter I've been watching the competing propaganda efforts with great interest and still haven't quite decided how to vote. Libertarian purist, waiting for the perfect weed bill? Or a more cynical "we'll take what we can get"?

    (Leaning toward purist, I think the national mood will carry us to legal weed in a year or two without having to get in bed with special interests for it - but I honestly am still pondering.)

  11. Progress! I'm sure that 100% of those clowns with a "R" after opposed Federalism before the last election.

  12. Rand Paul, while running for US Senate, was accused of supporting cannabis legalization by his Democratic opponent, a former prosecutor. In response, and to the dismay of many libertarians, Paul said he opposed legalization. This, in part, explains some of the luke-warm support of libertarians for his presidential campaign.

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  14. Do any of the candidates think the Controlled Substances Act should be repealed?...*crickets*

    I didn't think so.

    1. That would be a real "let the States handle it" move.


      The problem with repeal of the CSA is heroin, Crack. Designer drugs. DEA jobs.

  15. Alcohol Prohibition was based on control of producers. And that is what cannabis "legalization" means currently.


    The Republicans have a real problem on this issue. 58%. and rising.

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