Top-tier Republican candidates participating in the second GOP debate Wednesday night huffed and puffed over marijuana legalization as more states move to allow voters to legally light up. One Republican candidate even admitted to getting high in his youth.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said the drug war has gone too far, noting that there were racial implications associated with it. He advocated for more rehabilitation and less incarceration, and said it was hypocritical for candidates who had smoked pot in the past to oppose medical marijuana.
"He was talking about me," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush then bluntly stated that he had smoked pot 40 years ago, adding that his mother probably wouldn't be happy with him admitting his drug use. The crowd laughed.
Bush then moved from the topic of pot to heroin, and the issue of controversial drug courts, Vice reported, prompting a back-and-forth between Bush and Paul. Paul took a jab at Bush, calling him hypocritical and pointing out racial disparities between drug sentencing laws. At one point, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chimed in, criticizing Paul for making an implicit threat to separate mothers who administer marijuana as a medicine from their sick children.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina held firm on her position that drug addiction is an epidemic. She shared a personal story about burying her daughter as a result of a drug addiction. “We are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having beer. It’s not," said Fiorina.
Eleven candidates took the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California for the second top-tier GOP debate on Wednesday night. Those candidates included businessman Donald Trump, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. CNN had amended its criteria earlier this month for the top-tier debate due to a lack of public polling since the first GOP debate aired on Aug. 6 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Four candidates participated in an earlier forum, dubbed the “happy hour” debate. Candidates that registered at least one percent in three national polls were invited to participate, and those candidates included former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former New York Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Trump is currently in the lead in the Republican race with 27 percent, according to a poll released Tuesday. Carson is trailing Trump with 23 percent support. Kasich and Fiorina saw a slight increase in support in the polls, but have remained in the single digits, while support for Walker and Bush has dropped.