The 2016 Presidential race went into full swing on Monday with the Iowa Caucuses taking place. On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton essentially tied, and O’Malley did so poorly that he dropped out of the race after the results were announced. On the GOP side, which has many more candidates, Ted Cruz came out on top, with Donald Trump taking second place in Iowa, and Marco Rubio rounding out the top three.
Ted Cruz pulled off somewhat of an upset by winning in Iowa, and has changed the conversation as far as who is considered to be the front-runner on the GOP side to get the party’s nomination. Of course, there has only been one state that has voted so far, and there’s still a lot of primaries to go, but Ted Cruz’s victory was impressive enough that I have heard a lot of political pundits point to him now as the front-runner, so take that for what you will.
From a purely marijuana reform perspective, Ted Cruz is not as bad as some of his challengers, but is far from being a marijuana reform supporter. With Ted Cruz, it has been a mixed bag when it comes to his position on marijuana policy. He has stated that he believes that marijuana reform should be left to the states to decide, but has also criticized the Obama Administration for not stepping in to stop the implementation of marijuana legalization in the states that have approved it. Per Mother Jones:
“When it comes to a question of legalizing marijuana, I don’t support legalizing marijuana,” he told Hugh Hewitt in April. “If it were on the ballot in the state of Texas, I would vote no.”
“But I also believe that’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination…I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision, and one of the benefits of it, you know, using Brandeis’ terms of laboratories of democracy, is we can now watch and see what happens in Colorado and Washington State.”
But in 2014, Ted Cruz was very critical of Obama’s move to back off of marijuana enforcement in states that have legalized and people are complying with state law. Per and article from early 2014 in Mediaite:
“You could go to Congress, you can get a conversation, you could get Democrats and Republicans who would say, ‘We ought to change our drug policy in some way,’ and you could have a real conversation, you could have hearings, you could look at the problem, you could discuss commonsense changes that maybe should happen or shouldn’t happen,” Cruz continued. “This president didn’t do that. He just said, ‘The laws say one thing’ — and mind you these are criminal laws, these are laws that say if you do ‘X, Y, and Z’ you will go to prison. The president announced, ‘No, you won’t.'”
Tom Angell has the most comprehensive breakdown of how Presidential candidates feel about marijuana policy in America. In that breakdown, Tom Angell points out that Ted Cruz pressed then Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch on how she would handle state-level marijuana legalization:
Cruz pressed attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch with no fewer than 17 written questions about marijuana policy, including, “What steps will you take to require these states to cease and desist their support of the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana, or to otherwise bring these states into compliance with existing federal controlled substance law?”
In the next paragraph of Tom’s article he gives what I feel is the best analysis of Ted Cruz’s position on marijuana policy:
Cruz’s overall position seems to be that states should be allowed to legalize marijuana but, given current federal law, the presidential administration should continue to stand in the way of states that move forward. However, he hasn’t yet introduced or co-sponsored any legislation to bring federal law into line with his apparent view that the national ban on marijuana possession, cultivation and sales should be removed so states can set their own policies without interference. He hasn’t even co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that fellow presidential contender Rand Paul and others have introduced to stop federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers.
As with a lot of politicians, it’s hard to pin down exactly how Ted Cruz feels about marijuana. I think it’s safe to say that he doesn’t support reform, but is OK with letting states reform their laws, sort of. Well, at least some of the time. I guess it depends on who he is talking to on the campaign trail! Marijuana reform is going to continue to be a very important public policy issue, and if Ted Cruz is going to continue to lead the GOP pack that are running for President, I’m sure he will be asked about it a lot as the primaries roll on.