Republican Senator Rand Paul (Ky.) is poised to become the first presidential candidate from either party to make marijuana reform a significant campaign issue. Senator Paul plans to attend the Cannabis Business Summit in Denver tomorrow and plans to raise money for his campaign at that event.
Senator Paul has been a major voice behind the marijuana movement. He has argued that states should be allowed to adopt their own marijuana policies without the fear of federal interference.
In March, Senator Paul introduced a bipartisan bill with Democratic Senators Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), which would effectively end the federal ban on medical marijuana and implement a series of reforms.
Senator Paul has also been a strong supporter of the industrial hemp industry. In 2014, he played a key role in the Senate’s passage of legislation that would allow states to grow hemp for research.
The first marijuana presidential campaign fundraiser
According to event organizers, the minimum donation to attend the event is $2,700. The event is designed to let marijuana insiders hear from Senator Paul, who supports legislation to legalize medical marijuana and to give the marijuana industry access to banking services.
The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) said the following in an email:
“Never before has a major-party presidential candidate held a reception at a cannabis industry event, and NCIA is proud to host Senator Paul.”
A party divided
Senator Paul’s positions on important issues have led him to receive favorable recognition from members of the pro-marijuana movement. This could help Senator Paul draw young libertarian voters to his brand and build the case that he is the best GOP candidate for the 2016 election.
Senator Paul’s position on marijuana may hurt his chances because his views are not in line with older more conservative Republicans. Many older voters still have strong reservations about marijuana. Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who served as an adviser to John McCain in 2008, thinks that this could be a significant hurdle for Paul in the primaries.
“Older Republican voters are not exactly ecstatic about the idea of legalizing marijuana,” O’Connell said.
Times are changing.
Colorado, Washington state, Alaska and the District of Columbia have all passed measures legalizing marijuana. Many marijuana advocates think that Paul is well positioned to benefit from the momentum behind marijuana reform.
Currently, 27 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, decriminalized marijuana, or both. Also, 14 states have legalized a limited form of marijuana by allowing patients access to cannabidiol (CBD).
We are excited about Senator Paul’s announcement and we think that he will focus on some of the issues that would not otherwise get much coverage.