Many Republican Presidential Candidates Are Secretly OK With Legal Pot

by Joshua Green  |  published on October 27, 2015

I’m not sure who decided to stage a Republican presidential debate in the liberal bastion of Boulder, Colorado, and whether it’s an amusing coincidence or subtle trolling. Many local residents are, as the New York Times recently noticed, slightly puzzled and none too pleased about the influx of national Republicans. As a former Boulderite, I can report that a big reason for their discontent is the traditional Republican attitude toward marijuana: This is the party, after all, that christened “Just Say No” and launched the War on Drugs.

Few subjects occupy more space in the local psyche than pot. That’s probably more true since Coloradans legalized recreational marijuana use in a 2012 ballot initiative. And yet, on that front, there’s some cause for optimism. You just have to listen carefully to hear it: Most of the candidates descending on Boulder for Wednesday’s debate have signaled a desire to end the Republicans’ long-running war on pot.

Anyone listening to the Republican candidates will still hear plenty that’s negative about marijuana. With the exception of libertarian Rand Paul (whose undergraduate exploits in this area are legendary), GOP candidates still appear to feel obligated to express their disapproval of legal marijuana. But these days, they usually do so only when prompted by a voter or a debate moderator. And they often append an important qualifier.

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