At least one potential candidate for president in 2016 has taken a firm stance on marijuana reform.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush, is considered a potential Republican contender in two years. He may be a long-shot, given his brother’s record, but he’s a formidable power in the GOP.
On Aug 14, Bush announced his opposition to a wildly popular proposal to allow medical marijuana in Florida. Polls show more than 80 percent of voters want medical weed, and the ballot initiative there is widely expected to pass.
Still, hard-core conservatives like Bush and Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott refuse to give any credence to the science behind marijuana.
“Allowing large-scale marijuana operations to take root across Florida under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes runs counter” to efforts to make the state more attractive to tourists and businesses, Bush said.
No state that has yet approved medical marijuana has reported a corresponding drop in business investment or tourism.
Nonetheless, Bush publicly hitched his wagon to a fading crusade, a decision that could haunt him in two years, when weed is likely to be even more popular.
“I believe it is the right of the states to decide this issue,” Bush said while attempting to stop his home state from making that decision. “And I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.”
Bush was a popular governor, but Florida has changed, and so has America. Candidates who take too firm a position against reform may suffer at the ballot box. And it’s unlikely his words will have much impact anyway.
The campaign to legalize medical weed in Florida has been spearheaded by personal injury lawyer John Morgan, who shares a law practice with former Gov. Chris Cristie. Cristie, once a Republican, is now running to retake the office as a Democrat.
Scott, his opponent, has taken a firm stance against the initiative. He and Bush are part of an anti-pot coalition that also includes the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Trucking Association, and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida.
The contests over medical marijuana and the governor’s office have become intertwined, and some believe the proposal could draw more Democratic voters to the polls. Some experts reject that theory.
In any case, support is incredibly strong. A recent poll by Quinnipiac University found 88 percent of voters in Florida want the state to adopt medical cannabis. That includes 80 percent of Republican voters.
Nationwide, support for medicinal weed is nearly 90 percent. It’s an open question whether Bush considered that before taking a stand against something his own state badly wants.