It’s not easy to imagine sharing a joint with Jeb Bush while listening to Steppenwolf in a high school dorm room. In fact, the Jeb Bush we know today — the former Republican Governor of Florida and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate — has historically, and loudly, opposed the legalization of cannabis.
The middle aged, conservative family man doesn’t seem like the type to invite anyone on a THC-induced magic carpet ride. Impossible? Apparently not.
The Boston Globe published a profile on Jeb Bush — son of former president George H.W. Bush and younger brother to former president George W. Bush — earlier this week with some surprising news. Peter Tibbits, Bush’s classmate at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, said kicking back with Jeb and smoking a doobie was pretty common while the two were in high school during the 1960s.
“The first time I really got stoned was in Jeb’s room,” Tibbetts said to The Globe. “He had a portable stereo with removable speakers. He put on Steppenwolf for me.”
Bush confirmed Tibbetts’ report.
“I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover,” Bush said to The Globe. “It was pretty common.”
In his political career, Bush has staunchly opposed legalizing medical cannabis. Prior to mid-term elections last November, he spoke out against Amendment 2, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Florida.
“Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism, and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” Bush said in August. “Allowing large-scale marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts.”
Bush served as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, during which time he pushed for policies to punish non-violent marijuana users with jail time rather than treatment.
His time in office coincided with his daughter’s own ordeal with drug use — after being convicted of prescription fraud and theft, Ms. Bush tried to smuggle crack cocaine into a court-ordered drug treatment facility. All the same, Bush continued to back mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug users.
At this point in Bush’s career, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would invite a friend to smoke a blunt with him in the forest, as was common during his days at Andover. Today, he condemns his miscreant teenage drug use as “stupid” and “wrong.”
Bush’s critics and opponents have used The Globe’s story to point out his hypocrisy.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), another potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, is the most outspoken of these critics. In an interview with The Hill, Paul gave his (very heated) two cents on Bush’s drug stance.
“I think in politics the biggest thing, the thing that voters from any part of the spectrum hate worse than anything is hypocrisy,” Paul told The Hill. “And hypocrisy is, ‘Hey I did it and it’s okay for me because I was rich and at an elite school but if you’re poor and black or brown and live in a poor section of one of our big cities, we’re going to put you in jail and throw away the key.’ ”
Paul, in accordance with a recent trend among some Republicans, supports the legalization of medical cannabis. In July, the Kentucky senator introduced an amendment to shield 33 states that allow medical cannabis from federal prosecution.
Two more of Bush’s potential opponents in the upcoming GOP primary presidential election have voiced support for legalizing medical cannabis. Texas Gov. Rick Perry openly supports the decriminalization of marijuana. New Jersey Chris Christie has even called for an “end on the War on Drugs.”
The flurry of debate around Jeb Bush’s smoky past hints that medical cannabis will be an important topic in the upcoming 2016 election.
As far as the Democrats go, Hillary Clinton said she could be open to state legalization if more information on the benefits of medical cannabis is made available. Joe Biden doesn’t support legalization at the federal level, though he called “focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana” a “waste of time.”