Jeb Bush (Jeff Chiu, AP)

Jeb Bush: Legal pot ‘was a bad idea but states ought to have the right to do it’

A few weeks after Jeb Bush’s teenage marijuana habit made headlines, the likely Republican presidential candidate on Friday came out in favor of states making their own decisions on legal cannabis.

“I thought it was a bad idea,” Jeb Bush said today at the Conservative Political Action Conference, “but states ought to have the right to do it.”

Bush’s comment, which came a day after Ted Cruz — another likely Republican presidential candidate — said something similar, was enough to send New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal to his blog:

Did the editorial staff of High Times magazine take over the Conservative Political Action Conference? Two presidential aspirants, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, and Ted Cruz, current Senator of Texas, broached the topic of marijuana legalization at the conference.

Sure enough, CPAC’s lead MC was conservative TV host Sean Hannity, who kept asking guests about their position on Colorado’s experiment with legal marijuana. Legalization advocate Tom Angell took notice and had this to say about the Republicans’ suddenly lenient attitude toward the federal government’s relationship with legal marijuana states.

“Letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference is quickly becoming the default position among ambitious politicians in both parties,” said Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority. “That’s because polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans supports local control and responsibility when it comes to marijuana policy. When voters lead, politicians have to follow or get left behind.”

Angell’s sentiment is shared by Rosenthal, who finished today’s blog with this zinger:

It’s not clear what these relatively lenient comments mean for the Republican Party’s direction on pot. Because while Mr. Bush and Mr. Cruz preach federalism (sort of), Republicans in Congress have been threatening the mayor of Washington, D.C., with jail time for honoring the wishes of voters there and implementing a limited marijuana legalization policy. (Congressional Republicans treat residents of the nation’s capital like second-class citizens who can’t think for themselves. This, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that D.C. is heavily Democratic and heavily African American.)

For now, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Bush can appear to be good federalists, without lifting a finger to actually get rid of the ridiculous federal prohibition on marijuana.

Meanwhile earlier this month, Cruz also admitted to using marijuana as a youth.

“When he was a teenager,” a spokesperson told the Daily Mail, “he foolishly experimented with marijuana. It was a mistake, and he’s never tried it since.”