Senior Stoners and the GOP

Jeb Bush turns 62 next week. Yet we are just now hearing tales from his prep school days in the 1960s describing him as a major stoner.

Perhaps that makes you chuckle; it’s no stranger than the almost daily count of 60s and 70s musical legends dying off (or dealing with geriatric health conditions in trying to get boogeying). But to the extent that Republicans, including Jeb Bush, are very, very slowly moving towards recognizing that our drug laws are insanely antiquated and unjust, it’s a sign of the times that even people nearing retirement age lived through eras of routine middle- and upper-class recreational drug use, even as the justice system ruined the lives of untold numbers of poor people over similar habits.

And unfortunately for Jebbie (and perhaps other candidates whose “youthful indiscretions” have not yet been exposed), Rand Paul’s just the guy to draw attention to the hypocrisy, as Paul Waldman notes at the Prospect:

It’s a familiar position, particularly for a Republican, one that says that marijuana is terrible and should be illegal, even though I didn’t suffer any negative consequences for using it. Because what are the cops going to do, come raid a dorm at Andover and haul away Poppy Bush’s boy? I don’t think so.

That’s exactly how Rand Paul decided to attack Bush: “I think in politics the biggest thing, the thing that voters from any part of the spectrum hate worse than anything is hypocrisy,” Paul said. “And hypocrisy is, ‘Hey, I did it and it’s O.K. 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.'”

Trouble is, the GOP “base” is sufficiently old that it straddles the line between people for whom smoking weed was a rite of passage or perhaps something a bit more durable, and the slightly older cohort whose understanding of cannabis was pretty much based on Reefer Madness. That will inhibit the whole party from moving in Paul’s direction on this subject, along with a more fundamental comfort level with double standards for themselves as opposed to those people.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.