Republican candidates have been quite busy climbing over each other to get to far-right voters that will represent an extreme and small minority on election day.

But on the issue of marijuana it feels like the GOP is coming around to a populist stance.

Take the exchange at this week’s GOP candidates debate in Simi Valley, California, between Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, for example.

Paul pointed out that “there is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t”

“I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual,” he said.

He was aiming his comments at Bush. The Floridian admitted that he used cannabis 40 years ago, and he went on to say that if he was in the White House he’d let states decide their own marijuana policy:

“I’m sure that other people might have done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people,” he said. “My mom’s not happy that I just did.”

(He later apologized to Barbara Bush, tweeting, “Sorry Mom.”)

“What goes on in Colorado, as far as I’m concerned, that should be a state decision,” Bush said.

Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has said he’d enforce federal law in marijuana states, backed off his hard line, saying, “I’m not against medical marijuana. We do it in New Jersey.”

Anti-pot group Smart Approaches to Marijuana was not pleased. It stated:

Marijuana use-and drug use in general-does not, as Senator Paul suggested, only impact the user. Just ask any family that has struggled with a loved one facing addiction.


David Dinenberg, CEO of marijuana financial services firm Kind Financial, was impressed with the candidates’ stance.

“The Marijuana industry helps create jobs, taxes, is made in the USA and is the fastest growing industry in the USA,” he said. “Marijuana reform is a very important topic to the voters and will play a large part in determining our next President.”

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