The Pothead Voters' Guide to the Presidential Candidates - Rolling Stone
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The Pothead Voters’ Guide to the Presidential Candidates

A look at who’s inhaled, and who’d support legal marijuana if elected in 2016


GOP candidates discussed Colorado's marijuana law at Wednesday's CNN debate.

Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post/Getty

At the CNN Republican debate Wednesday night, Rand Paul led a hearty conversation about the 10th Amendment and candidates' hypocrisy as smokers-turned-prohibitionists. His comments were the latest to highlight the question many pundits and voters have been asking: How would the presidential candidates respond to marijuana legalization in states like Washington and Colorado? And which ones have themselves admitted to smoking? 

Here's a handy guide.

HIllary Clinton

NORTH LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 18: Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks during a campaign stop at Dr. William U. Pearson Community Center on August 18, 2015 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. More than 300 people attended a town hall where she touted her college affordability plan. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

Isaac Brekken/Getty

Hillary Clinton

"I didn't do it when I was young. I'm not going to start now." –CNN Town Hall, June 2014

On Monday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cleared up her stance on marijuana policy in front of a crowd at Luther College in Iowa. "I would support states and localities that are experimenting with this," she reportedly told the audience, providing more insight into her plans than she had in previous statements.

In a more vague comment last summer, she called states "laboratories of democracy," adding, "We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is."

Bernie Sanders

MANASSAS, USA - SEPTEMBER 14: Democratic Presidential Candidate Congressman Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally in Manassas, USA on September 14, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Bernie Sanders

"I smoked marijuana twice — didn't quite work for me." –Yahoo News interview with Katie Couric, June 2015

Just this week, Sanders said that while marijuana legalization is "not [his] thing," "it is the thing of a whole lot of people." The federal government, he said, could actually help clear the path for marijuana legalization in the states. 

"What the federal government can do is say to the state of Colorado that if you choose to vote to legalize marijuana, we will allow you to do that without restrictions," he said, citing federal restrictions preventing banking for Colorado marijuana businesses. "So I think there are things that the federal government can do that would make it easier for states that want to go in that direction to be able to do so."

Sanders didn't go into detail about what the federal government might do, saying he'll have more to say down the line, but this marked his second mention of banking restrictions on the state.  

Jeb Bush

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Mark J. Terrill/Getty

Jeb Bush

"Forty years ago I smoked marijuana, and I admit it. I'm sure that 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." –CNN Republican debate, September 2015

On the same evening Bush opined his mother's disappointment in his long-ago marijuana use, he said he believes marijuana legalization should be left up to the states. "What goes on in Colorado, as far as I'm concerned, that should be a state decision," Bush said.

The former Florida governor, whom Rand Paul called out for not supporting a medical marijuana ballot initiative in his home state, had previously supported the states' rights argument for marijuana legalization. At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, he said marijuana legalization is "a bad idea, but states ought to have [the] right to do it."

Scott Walker

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks to the media during a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, July 17, 2015. Wisconsins top court killed a criminal investigation of Walkers 2012 election campaign, removing a potential stumbling block to his presidential bid. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images


Scott Walker

"No. The wildest thing I did in college was have a beer." –Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, news conference, February 2015

At the second GOP debate, Walker espoused support for states' rights while also making the case that marijuana legalization conflicts with federal law in a problematic way.

"For me I think that should be a state issue, but I also think that you can't ignore the laws. And until the federal government changes the laws you don't get to pick and choose in a just society whether you enforce the laws or not," he said. 

Asked directly if he would "go after Colorado," Walker offered this meandering response:

"Well, I would enforce the law that was on the books no matter what it is. And again if we are going to change it, change it in the Congress. I believe it is a states' issue, so I don't have a problem changing it. I don't think marijuana is something that should be legalized. I've opposed it at my own state because law enforcement in both political parties have warned me that that's a gateway drug, they worry it would open the door to others out there. But to me, I still think that's something best handled at the state level. But the federal level, you've got to change the law. You don't just get to pick and choose what laws you enforce."

Basically: Enforce the federal law or change it.

marco rubio

SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) takes part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Justin Sullivan/Getty

Marco Rubio

"If I tell you that I haven't, you won't believe me. And if I tell you that I did, then kids will look up to me and say, 'Well, I can smoke marijuana, 'cause look how he made it. He did all right, so I guess I can do it, too.'" –ABC News, February 2014

Rubio, role model to the world's youth, doesn't want the federal government to give kids the wrong impression about pot either.

"Marijuana is illegal under federal law. That should be enforced," he told ABC News in May. In August, he told Meet the Press, "I believe the federal government needs to enforce federal law."

Donald Trump

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on September 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO/LAURA BUCKMAN (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Laura Buckman/Getty

Donald Trump

"I've never taken drugs of any kind, never had a glass of alcohol. Never had a cigarette, never had a cup of coffee." –Esquire, June 2015

At this year's CPAC, Trump said that while he doesn't like marijuana legalization, he'd leave the decision up to the states. "I think it's bad, and I feel strongly about that," he said, but, "If they vote for it, they vote for it."

Chris Christie

Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 19, 2015. The annual Faith & Freedom Coalition Policy Conference gives top-tier presidential contenders as well as long shots a chance to compete for the large evangelical Christian base in the crowded Republican primary contest. Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images


Chris Christie

"No, never have. It was not my thing." –New Hampshire, July 2015

Chris Christie has been clear about his intentions to stomp out marijuana legalization if elected. "If you're getting high in Colorado today," he said at a town hall in New Hampshire over the summer, "enjoy it until January 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana." 

In April, he had told radio host Hugh Hewitt, "Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. And the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it." 

At the most recent GOP debate, Christie said that "the war on drugs has been a failure" before adding, "That doesn't mean we should be legalizing gate way drugs."

Pointing to "the decrease in productivity" and "the way people get used and move on to other drugs," Christie said, "Their families are the victims too, their children are the victims too, and their employers are the victims also."

"That's why I'll enforce the federal law."

Rand Paul

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 23: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee July 23, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee is reviewing the proposed Iran nuclear agreement. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Alex Wong/Getty

Rand Paul

"Let's just say I wasn't a choir boy when I was in college and that I can recognize that kids make mistakes, and I can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid." –WHAS, December 2014

In November 2014, Rand Paul said, "I'm not for having the federal government get involved," adding that while he hadn't "really taken a stand" on marijuana legalization as a policy, he's "against the federal government telling [states] they can't."

At the second GOP debate, Paul went off on marijuana legalization as a states' rights issue, and even called out other candidates for supporting the criminalization of a drug they've admitted to doing without consequence. "I think one of the great problems, and what American people don't like about politics, is hypocrisy," he said, side-eyeing Jeb Bush and other former stoners on the stage. "People have one standard for others and not for them — for themselves."

"We say we like the 10th Amendment, until we start talking about this," Paul continued. "And I think the federal government has gone too far."

"I don't think that the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment, and I really will say that the states are left to themselves," Paul said, driving home his point.

Carly Fiorina

SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Justin Sullivan/Getty

Carly Fiorina

"I remember when I had cancer and my doctor said, 'Do you have any interest in medicinal marijuana?' I did not." –CPAC, 2015

At the second GOP debate, Fiorina denounced marijuana, characterizing it as a gateway drug that can lead to death, but also defended the 10th Amendment before changing the subject to gun control.

"I agree with Sen. Paul. I agree with states' rights. But we are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having a beer. It's not. And the marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago," she said, adding, "Sorry, Barbara," before discussing the "epidemic" of drug addiction and revealing she lost a child to addiction.

"I respect Colorado's right to do what they did. They are within their rights to legalize marijuana, and they are conducting an experiment that I hope the rest of the nation is looking closely at," she told the Des Moines Register in May. "I believe in states' rights. I would not, as president of the United States, enforce federal law in Colorado, where Colorado voters have said they want to legalize marijuana."

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