Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 26. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Sen. Ted Cruz says states have the right to legalize marijuana, even though he criticized President Obama a year ago for not enforcing federal drug law in the states that have.

“I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called the laboratories of democracy,” Cruz said in response to a question from Fox News commentator Sean Hannity at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday. “If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.”

"If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that's their prerogative. I don't agree with it, but that's their right," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said at CPAC on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. (AP)

Hannity had asked whether legalization in Colorado was a good or bad idea, to which Cruz initially replied with a joke: The brownies at the conference, he quipped, were apparently provided by that state. That joke was similar to one he made a little over a year ago, when he criticized Obama for allowing such laws to proceed in a speech at an event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation:

A whole lot of folks now are talking about legalizing pot. The brownies you had this morning were provided by the state of Colorado. And you can make arguments on that issue. You can make reasonable arguments on that issue. The president earlier this past year announced the Department of Justice is going to stop prosecuting certain drug crimes.

Didn’t change the law. You can go to Congress. You can get a conversation. You could get Democrats and Republicans who would say “He ought to change our drug policy in some way,” and you could have a real conversation. You could have hearings, you could look at the problem. You could discuss commonsense changes that maybe should happen or shouldn’t happen. This president didn’t do that. He just said, “the laws say one thing” — and mind you, these are criminal laws, these are laws that say if you do X, Y, and Z, you will go to prison. The president announced, “No, you won’t.”

Drug law reform is a conservative issue, Don Murphy, a former Republican Maryland state legislator who now works for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement in response to Cruz’s CPAC comments.

“This is a matter of federalism, the 10th Amendment, and state autonomy, which are core conservative priorities,” he said. “Marijuana prohibition is a failed federal government policy, and rolling it back should be on the agenda of every principled Republican lawmaker.”