Jeb Bush in the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Wednesday. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush admitted to having smoked pot in the past during the second Republican presidential debate Wednesday, sparking laughter in the audience and a new meme: Jeb Kush.
“Forty years ago I smoked marijuana, and I admit it,” Bush said during the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., when the topic turned to cannabis legalization.
“I’m sure that other people might have done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people. My mom’s not happy that I just did.”
Debate moderator Jake Tapper initially directed the weed question to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, saying marijuana legalization was the topic that social media users most wanted the candidates to address.
Paul responded that Americans are fed up with hypocritical politicians who have one standard for themselves and one for everyone else.
“There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school,” he said. “And yet the people going to jail for this are poor people — often African-Americans and often Hispanics — and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.”
And shortly after that Bush chimed in, “He was talking about me.”
After the admission, Bush’s campaign staff tweeted out an apology to his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, that read, “Sorry mom.”
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush)
Team Bush was not alone in taking to Twitter after the revelation. Viewers started tweeting pictures of Bush with the hashtag “#JebKush,” a slang word that refers to a variety of cannabis.
— Favre In The Cut (@ASAPParm)
— Jason Donnar (@jason_donnar_03)
Not everyone responded to the cannabis comments with memes and pot puns. Paul, a libertarian and longtime proponent for decriminalizing marijuana, argued that it is hypocritical that someone would go to jail for smoking marijuana in the state that Bush led from 1999 until 2007.
Sen. Rand Paul during the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)
“Under the current circumstances, kids who had privilege like you do don’t go to jail, but the poor kids in our inner cities go to jail. I don’t think that’s fair,” Paul said, directing his comments to Bush.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina also invoked Bush’s pot use to argue that to send a message to young people that marijuana is not harmful is misleading.
“The marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago,” she said.
This was not the first time Bush admitted to experimenting with marijuana. In January, he told the Boston Globe that he liked to party while attending Massachusetts’ elite Phillips Academy Andover.
“I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover,” he told the Boston paper. “It was pretty common.”