New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is coming for your weed. And he's not alone.
He and virtually all of the announced candidates — including the Democrats — running to succeed President Obama have stances that don't jibe with the American public when it comes to marijuana legalization.
Take Christie as a first example. He reiterated his position that he would enforce federal marijuana laws if elected president, telling Fox News in July, "Marijuana is against the law in the U.S. and it should be enforced in all 50 states."
His remarks were aimed at Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, where marijuana is fully legal for adults. But it also means that he might be willing to shut down the medical marijuana program in New Jersey.
As governor, Christie has done everything possible to restrict and curtail the safe access program. His predecessor, Democrat Jon Corzine, signed the Compassionate Use Act just days before Christie took office. But Christie was in charge of creating the law's rules and regulations. Under his watch, the program that should have had more than 100,000 registered patients has only served about 4,000 residents.
Christie's rules include the nation's only mandatory physician registry for recommending medical marijuana, caps on THC levels, and permitting just six dispensaries, only two of which operate daily.
Meanwhile, Philly420 and other reporters have revealed that the NJ cannabis facilities are actually owned and operated by close allies of Christie.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio was the first to join Christie with the same sentiment. On Meet the Press, Rubio said, "I'm not in favor of legalizing marijuana. I'm not. I never have been."
Those comments were again directed more towards recreational marijuana. Florida passed a CBD-only law aimed at getting cannabis oils to severely ill residents that is being regulated now. If he stays true to his word, Rubio would also be targeting his home state's safe access program.
When it comes to marijuana, Christie and Rubio have chosen an extreme position that is out of touch with Republican voters, especially millennials, and won't win them over any Democrats or independents.
A Pew Research poll earlier this year showed that 63 percent of Republicans, ages 19 to 35, favor fully legal marijuana. Support for ending cannabis prohibition has always been higher across the blue spectrum of politics in all age groups. Liberals poll above 70 percent on the issue.
Paradoxically, Christie has also been talking about ending the so-called War on Drugs. He touts treatment over prison as a better approach to addiction.
Still, about 700,000 are arrested for marijuana possession across the country each year — more than for any other illegal substance. In most states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, there are more pot arrests than for all other drugs combined.
In 2012, the New Jersey assembly passed a law to decriminalize marijuana, but after Christie promised a veto, the state senate never took it up.
Since that time, Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia have made marijuana possession a low-grade offense that usually means no arrest or even a court appearance. In those places, tens of thousands of arrests for small amounts of cannabis have stopped. Under Christie's watch, weed arrests in NJ are actually increasing at a time when every other state in the region is showing a decline.
The only GOP presidential candidate who has a clear position against marijuana prohibition is U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Rand Paul is the co-sponsor, with two Democratic senators, Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey, of the CARERS Act to federally legalize medical marijuana. Paul clearly supports medical marijuana and has hinted at, maybe, probably, possibly smoking some pot while in college.
A closed-door fundraiser in Denver was held for Paul with the National Cannabis Industry Association. Still, he hasn't come out standing with Mary Jane quite yet.
His position is summed up in this quote: "I haven't really taken a stand on that, but I'm against the federal government telling them they can't."
His father, Dr. Ron Paul, a long serving Republican Congressman from Texas, was famously pro-legalization.
The middle ground in the GOP field is held by former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. During a campaign stop in Iowa, she told the editorial board at the Des Moines Register: "I believe in states' rights. I would not as president of the United States enforce federal law in Colorado, where Colorado voters have said they want to legalize marijuana."
This is essentially the practice of the current administration. It is also the same kind of answer you will get on the issue from most Democrats.
Hillary Clinton has been running a cautious campaign, not offering too many comments. In June 2014, she told a CNN Town Hall: "On recreational [use], you know, states are the laboratories of democracy. We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is."
Wait and See. This is, strangely, pretty much the general position of the Democrats.
So what about the U.S. senator from Vermont drawing huge crowds to rally events, Bernie Sanders? Leaning so far left he sets off the socialist meter, Sanders is famous for his outspoken nature and hard work in Washington. Sanders does have a clear position favoring medical marijuana and decriminalization.
When it comes to fully legal weed, Sanders has basically joined the "Wait and See" camp offering no definitive position.
Yet instead of coming out in favor of legalization, he defers to a bigger problem — similar, oddly, to Christie's stance.
This was Sanders' answer when asked directly about marijuana by the Washington Post: "We have far, far, far too many people in jail for non-violent crimes, and I think in many ways, the war against drugs has not been successful, and I think we've got to rethink that," said Sanders.
The waiting is over.
Ohio voters will go to the polls on a ballot initiative this fall that could make it the first state east of the Mississippi River to have regulated, legalized cannabis in 2015. The same election that will determine the next president in 2016 may see California and several more states also vote in favor of full legalization.
Right now, alas, there is not a clear woman or man in the race to support if pot is your issue.
Perhaps the best presidential candidate is the one already in office. The New York Times editorial board recently called on President Barack Obama to stop being so willowy on the topic:
Even as support for ending marijuana prohibition is building around the country, Congress and the Obama administration remain far too timid about the need for change.
The op-ed calls for removing marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act completely. This is the same thing we called for during the Smoke Down Prohibition protests at Independence Hall National Historic Park here in Philadelphia.
Two years ago, I came to the park with a joint and that same message. For the 0.4 grams of cannabis I had on me, a federal judge sentenced me to two years of supervised probation and a $3,000 fine.
While the focus may be on his successor, President Obama still has a year left in office. That is more than enough time to make a tangible change for marijuana in America before the 2016 elections even come into play.
Chris Goldstein is associate editor of Freedom Leaf magazine and co-chair of PhillyNorml. Contact him at email@example.com.