Jeb Bush Supports Decriminalization But Calls Marijuana a ‘Gateway Drug’


Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush announced a slight shift in his position on marijuana laws on Friday.

“It’s one thing to say we should have decriminalization of marijuana. I support that,” the former Florida governor said in an interview with Joe Mathieu of Boston’s WBZ NewsRadio. Bush had not previously endorsed a removal of criminal penalties for cannabis possession.

But Bush added that he still opposes full legalization, reiterating how he even voted against a medical marijuana ballot measure that appeared on his state’s ballot in 2014.

“Marijuana is a gateway drug just as opiates are a gateway drug,” Bush continued. “Of course it is, every study shows that.”

In point of fact, a comprehensive research assessment by the Institute of Medicine in 1999 found, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”

Marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse,” the institute wrote in a review commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

In the new radio interview, Bush tied what he sees as marijuana’s dangers to the opioid overdose epidemic the United States is undergoing. “The new heroin and the new marijuana are highly, highly toxic,” he said.

It wasn’t clear what Bush meant when referring to “new” versions of the drugs but he did reiterate previous comments indicating he thinks states should be able to legalize marijuana without federal interference even though he personally supports continued prohibition.

“This is clearly gonna be a state issue, not a federal issue,” he said.

Elaborating a bit, Bush added, “Depending on the structure of the referendum I think this is really a state decision. The federal government has a role because federal laws don’t allow for the crossing of state lines for the sale of marijuana, and I support that as well.”

To find out what else Bush and other presidential candidates have said about marijuana, read our complete overview here.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. Since he is sticking to his “gateway” theory… what did his former marijuana use (his “gateway”) lead to? After all, his nick-name in high school and college was “Toker”.

    • I heard rumors that “LDS” might have been used by the younger Jeb Bush. In any event, I think he wore his headband too tight back in those days.

  2. I get so tried of ppl saying marijuana is a gateway drug what about cigarettes it’s a gateway to cancer to death what about alcohol it’s a gateway to destroy your liver your life or somebody’s else’s what about food it’s a gateway to obesity I can go on an on but don’t nobody address that situation do they let Tha plant free so ppl can be happy might as well its not going any where no time soon

  3. Don’t be fooled by marijuana “decriminalization” because citizens are still going to be treated like common criminals for marijuana under it. This is what prohibitionists such as Jeb Bush and Kevin Sabet will settle for.

    Citizens will STILL be forced to the dangerous black market and a shady illegal street drug dealer to purchase their marijuana. Getting caught buying it is STILL a crime they will arrest and jail you for. Then, they will also most likely try to FORCE you to either mandatory community service and/or rehab, and if you don’t comply, guess what? JAILTIME!

    They also fail to mention the additional huge cost of court costs which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars on top of the relatively small ticket/fine.

    If you fail to pay these expensive court costs you will be in “the system” as a criminal. With a warrant out for your arrest and incarceration.

    No thanks!

    Also, we will still be wasting our tax dollars sending police around to ticket marijuana users and wasting police manpower and resources.

    Instead of allowing our police the time, manpower and resources to protect us all from real, dangerous criminals who actually commit crimes with victims and pose a real threat to society.

    Why else do you think some politicians are so EAGER to “decriminalize”, instead of LEGALIZE?

    Don’t Let’em Fool Us!!!

    If you can’t purchase it legally, then it isn’t legal.

    If you have to fear a monetary fine/ticket which if you don’t pay and/or show up in court to handle, you then become a criminal with a warrant out for your arrest, and when convicted (yes convicted, as in crime.) you will then be forced into free manual labor and/or forced drug rehabilitation to be used as another statistic prohibitionists love to flaunt about supposed “marijuana addicts”, then….No, it’s not legal!

    This will not suffice! Getting caught purchasing marijuana is still considered a serious “drug deal” and you will be prosecuted for it!


    • There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

      The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority and rapidly shrinking percentage of Americans. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

      Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

      Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The vast majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

      With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

      Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

      Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

      • The “Gateway Myth” has been proven false over and over again. Correlation doesn’t equal causation.

        If Jeb Bush really wants to protect families from a drug proven to destroy lives and families, then he should be up in arms, protesting the legality of
        booze. Alcohol is the drug that causes the most traffic fatalities and domestic violence by a huge landslide.

        More so than all other drugs, combined.

        Why doesn’t that concern prohibitionists like Jeb Bush even more?

  4. Just yesterday there was a study released by the University of Florida, his own states University, that showed alcohol was actually a gateway drug. I guess as a former dealer turned politician he has to act as if he knows better than an actual recent study.

  5. Jeb is your classic prohibitionist/obstructionist. He says one thing and will do another just like Nixon did in ’73…Nixon created the DEA when the FDA already existed…
    Jeb is yesterdays news, the plant is a gateway to relieve medical conditions…that would hurt profits for Big PHarma…
    Follow the money.

  6. All those studies he referred to are lies. It must be a family trait;
    Gateway. Refuted.

    FACT Marijuana is NOT a Gateway Drug. Here’s a 12 Yr Univ Study that says so;.
    Media overview; pitt.Edu/~ugr/Hrych2.pdf

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