Source:,  By Gregory Krieg

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators will introduce Tuesday a bill that would end the federal ban on medical marijuana, reversing a decades-old law that prohibits even military doctors from prescribing cannabis to war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress.

The legislation, the first of its kind, would “allow patients, doctors and businesses in states that have already passed medical marijuana laws to participate in those programs without fear of federal prosecution,” Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said in a statement Monday, according to the Washington Post.

Paul has been an outspoken critic of American drug policy for years. Now the likely candidate for president is preparing to bring his marijuana reform argument to the Republican Party’s 2016 nominating contest. For Republicans seeking a return to the White House after President Barack Obama’s consecutive triumphs, that should be welcome news.

“It has such a nice natural connection to a lot of Republican constituencies,” John Hudak, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and managing editor of its FixGov blog, told Mic. “You can frame marijuana legalization around free market ideas, issues of liberty, issues of federalism and states’ rights — all really nice topics and talking points for Republican candidates. A lot of issues touch on maybe one of those or two of those, but marijuana really touches on quite a few.”

Hudak said Republicans, who have mostly scaled back their opposition to legalization in the states, “are doing something they are usually terrible at — looking down the road at the demographic landscape and adjusting their policies accordingly.”

“They’re not doing it on same-sex marriage effectively, they’re not doing it on health care effectively, they’re not doing it on a lot of social issues effectively,” he said, “but it looks like they’re starting to see the light on legalization.”

Better late than never. In 2016, young voters who overwhelming support marijuana legalization are expected to return to the polls after their traditional midterm no-show in 2014.

“They’re sort of self-reinforcing forces in the electorate that create a really positive recipe to assist legalization advocates,” Hudak said. “It’s a hot issue. For a candidate, you talk about it and it makes waves.”

Some of those early Republican frontrunners are trying to ride that wave, while others are planning to fight a tide of increasing public support. From most supportive to least, here’s where six of the GOP’s likely 2016 presidential candidates stand on the future of marijuana in America:

1. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

Source: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Did he ever get high? Yes.

Does he regret it? “Let’s just say I wasn’t a choir boy when I was in college and that I can recognize that kids make mistakes, and I can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid,” Paul told WHAS-TV in December 2014.

True believer: When it comes to policy, Paul is the undisputed king of the GOP’s 2016 crop. His commitment to scaling back marijuana prohibition is deeply rooted in the libertarian politics that made his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a cult figure on the fringes of the Republican Party. The son, though, is committed to winning.

“Paul’s someone who is as close to pro-legalization as a Republican is going to get anytime soon,” Hudak said. “And he does so for a variety of reasons: liberty issues, states rights issues and economic issues. I think he understands that the drug war in this country has failed. This seems like a very sincere reflection of his policy ideas.”

Paul’s primary focus seems to be something closer to decriminalization. Much of his rhetoric centers on concerns about mandatory minimum sentencing, which can lead to long prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and disproportionately injures minority communities.

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