Jeb Bush Supports Decriminalization But Calls Marijuana a ‘Gateway Drug’

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush announced a slight shift in his position on marijuana laws on Friday.

“It’s one thing to say we should have decriminalization of marijuana. I support that,” the former Florida governor said in an interview with Joe Mathieu of Boston’s WBZ NewsRadio. Bush had not previously endorsed a removal of criminal penalties for cannabis possession.

But Bush added that he still opposes full legalization, reiterating how he even voted against a medical marijuana ballot measure that appeared on his state’s ballot in 2014.

“Marijuana is a gateway drug just as opiates are a gateway drug,” Bush continued. “Of course it is, every study shows that.”

In point of fact, a comprehensive research assessment by the Institute of Medicine in 1999 found, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”

Marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse,” the institute wrote in a review commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

In the new radio interview, Bush tied what he sees as marijuana’s dangers to the opioid overdose epidemic the United States is undergoing. “The new heroin and the new marijuana are highly, highly toxic,” he said.

It wasn’t clear what Bush meant when referring to “new” versions of the drugs but he did reiterate previous comments indicating he thinks states should be able to legalize marijuana without federal interference even though he personally supports continued prohibition.

“This is clearly gonna be a state issue not a federal issue,” he said.

To find out what else Bush and other presidential candidates have said about marijuana, read our complete overview here.

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