Pot reluctance: Presidential hopefuls get skittish talking about weed

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It’s a little hazy. Political observers say presidential hopefuls in both parties are increasingly reluctant to weigh in on the legalization of marijuana, either for medicinal or recreational use. It’s complicated.

“The law enforcement backgrounds of many elected officials creates some hesitation around the pot issue,” says Business Insider analyst Colin Campbell, who notes that among potential Democratic candidates, Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York is a former state attorney general, and Martin O’Malley of Maryland is a former assistant state attorney.

Among Republicans, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was a U.S. attorney, and claimed in June that medical marijuana is “a front for legalization” efforts in his state. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, meanwhile, have come out in favor of less restrictive penalties for marijuana use.

“It’s a very polarizing issue when it comes down to it. Because when you’re a politician you don’t want to be seen as legalizing marijuana,” a Republican pollster told Mr. Campbell. “They have to do the tightrope on this thing because they don’t want to be seen as someone who’s too liberal on the legalization.”

And there’s always the “stoner” cultural issue to consider, along with the federal government’s take on things.

If he runs for the White House again as a Libertarian, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is already outspoken in favor of weed legalization, calling for “common sense reform of the nation’s drug laws”. He was recently named CEO of Cannabis Sativa, a Nevada-based manufacturer of marijuana-infused lozenges and other products.

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