The news this morning that onetime GOP presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham is endorsing 2016 candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush means a huge boost for Bush’s foreign policy platform – and a small chance that the senator’s support of medical marijuana could rub off on Bush.
Sen. Graham isn’t an outspoken advocate for cannabis reform but he does support medical marijuana. For the cannabis community, having such a high ranking southern Republican’s support is rare.
In an interview with WBTV, Sen. Graham further explained his stance. “I’m against legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes,” said the southern Republican.
Sen. Graham went on to talk specifically about medicinal use saying, “but when it comes to medicinal marijuana and this oil, I think politicians should embrace what makes sense. When it comes to issues like this, I don’t want to be academic in thought. This is about people. This is about families with sick children. Why should someone in my position get in the way of helping a child, if you can reasonably and logically do it?”
Sen. Graham’s stance on medical marijuana is in step with how Americans feel about legalization.
A 2015 Harris Poll reveals that “four in five adults (81%) favor legalizing marijuana for medical use, up from 2011 when three quarters of Americans (74%) indicated the same. Meanwhile, half of Americans are supportive of legalizing marijuana for recreational use (49%), up from the two fifths (42%) who felt that way in 2011.”
Bush may also want to take notes on the Republican senator’s stance because that Harris poll also indicates that “while a majority – albeit a slimmer one – of Republicans also support the legalization medical marijuana (69% support, 23% oppose), a similar majority opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use (27% support, 65% oppose).”
So, Sen. Graham is on point with American sentiments on legalizing marijuana for medical, not for recreational use.
Medical Marijuana In Florida
While Bush has admitted to using the plant in High School, the 2016 candidate for the White House is not on board with legalization and, in the past, has spoken out against medical marijuana in Florida.
In 2014, when Florida had a ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana, he issued this anti-cannabis statement:
“Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” Bush said. “Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts,” he added. “I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November,” Bush said.
His disapproval of the overwhelmingly popular proposal in Florida shows that he was out-of-step with his Floridian constituents. Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll on marijuana points out that the data shows “bare majorities in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania say they support allowing adults to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, and more than eight in 10 say it should be available for medical uses.”
Since Florida’s failed initiative, Bush has loosened up a little.
At last years’ Conservative Political Action Committee conference, when asked about legalizing marijuana, he said he doesn’t support it but believes that “states ought to have that right to do it.”
American voters will have to wait and see if Bush changes his tune on legalization but with his poor polling numbers lately, it may behoove the 2016 hopeful to reconsider his political platform on cannabis.
The latest Quinnipiac poll data shows Bush in dead last in his heap with only 4 percent of Republican votes. To put things in perspective, business mogul Donald Trump scored 24 percent, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson got 23 percent, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is at 14 percent and Texas Senator Ted Cruz has 13 percent of the votes in this poll.
Bush Tried It
While attending Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, the oldest incorporated high school in the U.S., a young Jeb was known around campus as a pot-smoking academic failure. Going to the same school his father and brother, who would eventually mature and take their turns in the Oval Office, the pressure was on.
His struggle with academia was rough. Bush recalled that time of his life in an interview with The Boston Globe saying, “I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover…it was pretty common,” he added.
Michael Kranish’s Boston globe article really dives into Bush’s recreational marijuana use with an interview from one of Jeb’s schoolmates.
From the article:
One of those who did get to know Bush in these early days was Peter Tibbetts. The connection, he said, was pot. The first time Tibbetts smoked marijuana, he said, was with Bush and a few other classmates in the woods near Pemberton Cottage. Then, a few weeks later, Tibbetts said he smoked hashish — a cannabis product typically stronger than pot — in Jeb’s dormitory room.
“The first time I really got stoned was in Jeb’s room,” Tibbetts said. “He had a portable stereo with removable speakers. He put on Steppenwolf for me.” As the rock group’s signature song, “Magic Carpet Ride,’’ blared from the speakers, Tibbetts said he smoked hash with Bush.
He said he once bought hashish from Bush but stressed, in a follow-up e-mail, “Please bear in mind that I was seeking the hash. It wasn’t as if he was a dealer, though he did suggest I take up cigarettes so that I could hold my hits better, after that first joint.”
Since his brush with marijuana in the 70’s, Jeb Bush has tried to downplay his past with pot. At a Republican debate in September Bush addressed his prior use on stage saying, “forty years ago I smoked marijuana and I admit it…I’m sure that other people might have done it and might not want to say it in front of 25 million people.”
Bush then issued a formal apology to his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush on Twitter.
The message was a simple “Sorry Mom.”
Foreign Policy In The Spotlight
Sen. Graham stood by Jeb Bush this morning in North Charleston, South Carolina to announce his support for Bush’s presidential bid.
“Last night I heard from Jeb Bush the right answer,” Graham said, “he demonstrated somebody in my view who is ready on day one to be commander-in-chief.”
It’s a big feather in Bush’s cap to have such a big name in Washington politics on board.
“Lindsey Graham is probably the most knowledgeable person on the Hill as it related to national security, military affairs and foreign policy,” Bush said on Friday morning.
During his short stint as a 2016 presidential candidate, Sen. Graham’s campaign was heavily focused on foreign policy. After all, he has very influential Senate committee assignments. Graham is on Senate Committee on Armed Services and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.
It’s not a huge surprise that the two came together, considering how Jeb Bush swooped in after Sen. Graham suspended his campaign and adopted Graham’s campaign state finance chairman along with a handful of others.
Interesting enough, when asked why Sen. Graham chose the former governor of Florida over the current Senator of the Sunshine State, he spoke frankly. “Marco Rubio will be president of the United States one day…but I wasn’t ready to be president at 44,” said Sen. Graham.