On Thursday, the 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls set off a barrage of verbal fireworks aimed at one another at the first debate in the new year. Participation was by invitation-only and out of the twelve politicians in the running for the Republican nomination, only seven made it to the FOX Business News primetime stage in Charleston, South Carolina.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, business mogul Donald Trump, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and former Ohio Governor John Kasich made the cut for the big debate.
Those trailing in the polls such as businesswoman and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and former Arkansas governor and FOX host Mike Huckabee had their numbers fall below the Fox Business News’ threshold. They were not invited to the top tier candidate rumble. Alternatively, the bottom three politicians were sent to the affectionately nicknamed ‘kids table’ debate where they had the opportunity to be in the political limelight for a pre-debate, debate.
One notable contender who was absent from the Palmetto State was Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
Sen. Paul is running in 2016 but with his polling numbers at a low 3 percent leading up to Thursday’s debate, he was cut from the primetime GOP debate and demoted to the undercard ‘kids table’ candidate panel. Paul then chose to opt-out of the debate entirely, instead, choosing to have a live town hall meeting online at Twitter’s headquarters in New York, New York.
Now back to the main event – where foreign policy abroad dominated the debate while other hot-button issues like medical marijuana and the legalization of cannabis here at home fell by the wayside.
On refugees and radicalization, business mogul Donald Trump said he wants to stop all Muslims from entering the U.S. because he has seen a migration of ‘strong and powerful men’ from countries like Syria. “It’s not fear and terror, its reality,” Trump adds, ‘look at the bombings and attacks in Indonesia and Paris.’
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke out about America’s “need to rebuild the military” and mockingly called President Obama’s State of the Union address “story time with Barack Obama”.
Christie went on to say that his address “sounded like everything in the world was going amazing.” But according to Christie, “there’s a lot of mess to pick up.” After the Obama administration leaves office the next president has a lot to accomplish like ‘strengthening alliances overseas and keeping our promises,’ Christie said.
On gun violence, Kasich touted the task force he pulled together in Ohio between the police and the community which resulted in 23 recommendations for policy that are currently in place or under review. He chalked it up to a success and a model he would look to for future issues with race-relations as president.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio was expected to blow Trump and Cruz out off the top of the leaderboard but instead he fumbled, only getting a jab at Democratic candidate and easy target, Hillary Clinton over her foreign policy missteps as Secretary of State.
Jeb Bush talked a lot about how wrong Hillary Clinton is for the job and with the second smallest amount of speaking time on the floor, he didn’t get to say much about why he is the right man for the job. According to NPR, Bush had nine minutes and forty-four seconds of speaking time. Kasich came in last with only nine minutes and seven seconds.
Midway through the debate, Trump amplified his party’s infighting by bringing up the Texas Senator, Ted Cruz’s eligibility for the Oval Office.
“Let’s let the courts decide,” proposed Trump.
The issue at stake is whether Cruz is a ‘natural born citizen’. The Constitution outlines that “no person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President.” However, born to an American mother in Canada, whether he is a “natural born citizen” is up for discussion.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson started off on a light note, joking about his so-called sleepy-eyes and finished with what sounded like a public service announcement for his fellow Republicans.
“I am very happy I got a question this early, I was going to ask you to wake me up when the time came,” Carson joked.
For the record, the doctor supports medical marijuana. He recently said at a campaign rally, “medical marijuana has proven its benefit and it should be rescheduled, there’s no question about that.” But while he does believe in the compassionate care perspective, he does not support legalization because be believes it’s a “gateway drug.” (link: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/01/03/ben_carson_on_marijuana_legalization_were_removing_barriers_to_hedonistic_activity.html)
Overall, there was a lot of time spent talking about foreign policy including the military, refugees, border security, and terrorism. Unfortunately, FOX Business News moderators didn’t ask any candidate about cannabis law reform. They didn’t ask about industry’s gray areas such as W-280E tax reforms, banking issues for the cannabis industry, nor did they ask for comment on the successful appropriations bill amendment which forbids any funding to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to go after cannabis businesses and dispensaries in states with pro-cannabis laws.
Medical marijuana and cannabis legalization were not part of this Republican debate but the issue has been brought up at the GOP debate in Colorado back in October when Cruz joked about giving the moderator “famous Colorado brownies.”
When asked about the revenue streams that taxed and regulated cannabis could bring in, Kasich said that he doesn’t want to send mixed messaged to kids about drugs and that he’s spent time doing things in Ohio to reign in overdoses.
To set the record straight with a fact check on Kasich’s comments, its’s fair to say that the gray legal area created by contradicting federal and state laws can be confusing, so is learning the differences between decriminalization vs legalization and recreational vs medical. But when he says, ‘reign in overdoses’, he it would be incorrect to be talking about cannabis.The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), funded by the National Institute of Health says (LINK: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/national-drug-facts-week/drug-facts-chat-day-marijuana) :
“If you mean can they overdose and die from marijuana—the answer is no, its not very likely.”
More likely than Republicans talking about cannabis at a nationally broadcasted live debate is Democrats talking about the green space.
The political press will once again converge on Charleston this Sunday when the Democrats Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O’Malley take the stage for their first debate of 2016.
Democratic Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been a big advocate for cannabis reform. From his campaign’s website (LINK: http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-drug-policy/) :
“[Bernie Sanders] supports medical marijuana and the decriminalization of recreational marijuana, and has said that he supports the right of states to opt for full legalization.”
Former Democratic New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she supports medical marijuana and the reclassification of cannabis from a schedule I drug to a schedule 2 drug. At a recent town hall meeting in South Carolina Clinton said, “I want to move from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 so researchers can research what’s the best way to use it, dosage, how does it work with other medications.”
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley agrees with Clinton on rescheduling and when it comes to recreational use, he says he wants to wait and see how it works in Colorado. Meanwhile, as governor, he had signed a decriminalization bill for the state of Maryland.
Whether you are pro-cannabis or against, these debates are important for voters to follow what the candidates are saying and hold them accountable as America decides the 45th president of the United States of America.