Medical Marijuana Could Influence 2016 Presidential Primary

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is expected to announce his 2016 presidential candidacy in the very near future.

This we all know, and—as he continues to barnstorm around the country gobbling up establishment Republican dollars and schmoozing possible voters in key primary states like South Carolina and Iowa—Bush’s campaign seems almost unstoppable, right?

Well, Jeb is sucking the oxygen out of the room, but his amigo Senator Marco Rubio, who conservative grassroots activists favor, inches closer to announcing his own presidential bid. Could that—along with the fact that Jeb has some serious GOP base problems for his support of Common Core education standards and a pathway to citizenship of illegal aliens—give Jeb’s campaign a rude political awakening in 2016?

These factors will come into play in the 2016 presidential election cycle, but there is a third issue that could make life a little more difficult for both Bush and Rubio in 2016.

The medical marijuana issue, which as Joe Biden would say, “Is a big f-ing deal” in Florida and continues to gather strength and support around the state.

The measure to legalize pot, which needed the support of 60 percent of Floridians, was barely defeated at the ballot box in 2014, leading many political insiders to “bet on green” in 2016 if and when the issue makes it onto the ballot.

The controversial issue of legalizing marijuana in Florida could force Rubio and Bush to take a stand on the issue, possibly even forcing the two to address the question of whether they have ever smoked pot to the media, town hall meetings, and possibly at presidential debates.

So how can Jeb or Marco avoid this all but certain problematic marijuana issue in 2016?

The people who can make this issue go away for them is the Florida legislature.

If Speaker Steve Crisafulli, who has already endorsed Jeb Bush, and the rest of the Republican-led legislature take up a medical marijuana bill and pass it, then the controversial issue will not be on the 2016 ballot, and Rubio and Bush would probably be in the clear.

One interesting statistic to point out about the legalizing marijuana debate is the comparison of the youth vote in 2010 and 2014.

Because medical marijuana was on the ballot in 2014, the youth vote doubled from 2010, the year Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Rubio crushed then-independent Charlie Crist in that election, but only because the Democrat vote was split with Rep. Kendrick Meeks.

Will the Florida legislature act to protect two of their own in 2016 by passing a medical marijuana bill in the 2015 legislative session?