GOP field divided on pot takes Colorado stage
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BOULDER, Colo., may be hosting the third 2016 GOP presidential debate, but not all candidates on stage Wednesday night are publicly sold on one major issue in the Centennial State: legalized pot.

The issue is likely to waft into CNBC's debate, putting some Republicans in an awkward position facing cannabis enthusiasts and supporters who are quick to highlight the revenue from marijuana taxes.

Among the current crop of Republican presidential candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieChristie: McCarthy, not Trump, will be the next Speaker The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Arbery case, Biden spending bill each test views of justice Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to Senate for Biden spending plan MORE has been perhaps the most vocal opponent to state-legalized recreational marijuana.


"If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it," Christie said during a New Hampshire town hall back in July. "As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws."

Christie reiterated that position during the last debate on Sept. 16, panning marijuana as a "gateway drug" and instead focusing on rehabilitation efforts in his home state.

Many Republican candidates have shied away from voicing opposition to Colorado's 2012 move spearheading legal recreational pot use. The state now allows adults 21 and older to buy up to one ounce of weed.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP anger with Fauci rises Congress's goal in December: Avoid shutdown and default Cotton swipes at Fauci: 'These bureaucrats think that they are the science' MORE (Ky.) has long been a vocal supporter of the issue being left to the states, as opposed to strictly enforcing federal law, and he’s spoken favorably of cases involving medial marijuana.

Paul lit into Christie during a rally in Denver on Tuesday afternoon, slamming the "bully" from New Jersey and saying he should stay well away from the White House.

"If I'm president, I'm going to leave Colorado the hell alone," Paul said to raucous applause. 

Hitting out at other candidates, Paul said mockingly, "They think marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said during the last debate that the issue of what goes on in Colorado should be "a state decision," an answer that may placate activists stressing individual liberty.

"Forty years ago, I smoked marijuana, and I admit it," Bush said during the CNN debate last month, adding that most candidates might not be so forthcoming. "My mom's not happy that I just did."

In pockets of the country that have since legalized pot, including Washington state, Oregon, Alaska and D.C., lighting up has become less of a lightning-rod issue. But it remains a major focus heading into Wednesday night's debate.

This week, the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, boosted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's grade from a "D" to a "B-“ after the GOP presidential candidate suggested that the feds should not interfere with state laws on the issue.

While other candidates might voice tempered acknowledgement of recreational pot, they also point out other issues where a hard line against drugs should be held.

"The marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago," businesswoman Carly Fiorina said during the last debate.

Fiorina also said marijuana should be left to the states but, like Bush, has emphasized the need to tackle the drug issue of heroin overdoses while on the campaign trail in areas like New Hampshire.