Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said in an interview Saturday that if elected president, he would not interfere with Colorado’s legalization of marijuana.
Though Cruz opposes recreational marijuana, the Texas senator has also maintained that the decision to legalize or outlaw it should not be made by the federal government.
“I think on the question of marijuana legalization, we should leave it to the states,” Cruz told the Denver Post. “If it were me personally, voting on it in the state of Texas, I would vote against it. The people of Colorado have made a different decision. I respect that decision.”
Cruz also acknowledged that the effects of legalization in Colorado should be closely monitored.
“It is an opportunity for the rest of the country to see what happens here in Colorado, what happens in Washington state, see the states implement the policies, and if it works well, other states may choose to follow,” he said. “If it doesn’t work well other states may choose not to follow.”
Colorado residents voted to legalize marijuana in 2012. The first retail marijuana stores opened in 2014 and in the first year, the state saw a decrease in crime rates and traffic fatalities and an increase in tax revenue, economic output, and jobs, according to a report by the Drug Policy Alliance.
Statewide sales of recreational cannabis totaled $996 million last year, and state government revenues from taxes and licensing fees exceeded $135 million.
ThinkProgress reported last week that legal weed saved the Colorado town of DeBeque from economic collapse. The town is currently making more in tax revenue from cannabis alone than it took in from all oil and mineral taxes combined before marijuana was legalized.
But Cruz was reluctant when it came to acknowledging the successes of legalization.
“I’m going to give that some time to let the facts and evidence play out and ultimately that will be a decision for the people of Colorado,” he said.
Cruz is not the only candidate who has had to reconcile his commitment with state’s rights to the Republican Party’s anti-drug base. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has called Colorado’s legalization “bad,” but has similarly said that individual states’ decisions should be left alone.
“If they vote for it, they vote for it,” he said. “But they’ve got a lot of problems going on right now, in Colorado. Some big problems.”