Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reaches out to shake hands as he and his wife wife Mary Pat walk through downtown Wolfeboro, N.H., during its Fourth of July parade. (Mary Schwalm, AP)

Video: Why all presidential candidates will make pot policy a priority in 2016

When Vice founder Shane Smith interviewed President Barack Obama in March 2015, the “number one question from everyone on the Internet” was about the future of marijuana legalization, Smith said at the time.

And for the first time in a presidential election, the person who will take over the White House from President Obama will have to make his or her positions on pot clearly known, a cannabis industry insider says.

“This will be a campaign where the candidates will have to take a clear position on the future of marijuana laws in the United States,” said Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, in a recent interview on The Cannabist Show.

West’s organization last week hosted an important first for the nascent marijuana industry. When U.S. Senator Rand Paul hosted a fundraiser in conjunction with the NCIA’s Cannabis Business Summit last week, he became the first major-party candidate for President of the United States to raise money from the legal weed industry.

Paul’s stance on marijuana and hemp are well known — as are those of his competitors. And we’ll be learning more about these politicians’ feelings on cannabis policy as we get closer to the election in November 2016.

“For the first time in a presidential election, candidates aren’t going to be able to waffle around and avoid the question,” West said. “They’re simply going to have to take positions, and that in and of itself will do quite a lot to drive the national conversation.”

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