For the first time, marijuana is becoming a significant policy issue for Republican and Democratic candidates, thanks in part to softening public attitudes toward the drug and Colorado’s prominent place on the political map, says the Denver Post. “(Marijuana) is a topic that 2016 presidential candidates will not be able to avoid or dismiss with a pithy talking point,” says John Hudak of the Brookings Institution. “It is one that candidates will have to think about and engage.” Some Republican candidates are making marijuana an issue on their own. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would enforce federal laws to crack down on pot use in states such as Colorado. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul became the first major candidate to attend a fundraiser with the weed industry in a recent Denver visit.
Pot politics hit prime time with an extended exchange in last week’s GOP debate on CNN, which drew an audience of 23 million. Candidate Jeb Bush opposed a 2014 ballot measure in Florida to legalize medical marijuana, but he agreed it’s a state issue. “What goes on in Colorado, as far as I’m concerned, that should be a state decision,” he said. U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who opposed legalization, said, “I don’t think you can talk about the states’ rights issue without talking about the biggest states’ rights issue of modern time.” In 2013, Gallup found a 58 percent majority of Americans favored legalizing marijuana This year, Gallup reported that 44 percent of Americans acknowledged they tried weed, the highest ever.