With three viable candidates left in the GOP race for the 2024 presidential election (no offense to Vivek Ramaswamy) and the Iowa caucus around the corner, let’s look at what the candidates have in mind for legalizing cannabis at the federal level — that isl of course, if the Biden administration doesn’t do the honors first.
Let’s begin with the woman of the hour, Nikki Haley, who is gaining momentum in the polls. When the former governor of South Carolina threw her hat into the ring last February, she called for a “new generation” of leaders — a comment cannabis advocates usually take as a good sign (not that cannabis legalization is limited to the youngsters, as a Nov 2023 Gallup poll pointed out).
Haley has said all along that cannabis legalization should be decided at the state rather than federal level. She recently reiterated what she said, saying, “I think these types of decisions are best decided at the state level. It’s where people can show the power of their voice.”
While this sounds nice enough, given the recent news that the Department of Health and Human Services made public its recommendations to the DEA to reschedule cannabis based on its “accepted medical use,” many people will now be looking for a full federal legalization of cannabis.
The frontrunner, during his four years in the White House, upheld federal prohibition, though he did not pursue an all-out crackdown on state-legal cannabis programs. In May 2023, Trump called weed a “pretty popular thing” among voters but then reiterated his view that drug dealers should get the death penalty. He was not clear whether he viewed illicit cannabis sellers as drug dealers. However, when Trump told the National Rifle Association last May that mass shootings were “not a gun problem” but rather that “genetically engineered” cannabis (and the trans community) could be at fault and should be investigated, shivers no doubt ran down a lot of spines. So, for the purpose of this review, we’ll take that as a “no” on Trump legalizing weed if he’s elected president again.
Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, according to Florida Politics, “has been all over the place rhetorically during not just this campaign but his political career when it comes to cannabis.” We’ll take the outlet’s word and add that the former political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws once wrote that DeSantis used to be “one of the coolest Republicans when it came to weed.”
Not So Cool Anymore
DeSantis said last week in Dubuque, Iowa, that he would respect state-level cannabis decisions if elected president. But then he blew his cool by adding that legal weed programs in states like Colorado and California are responsible for the increase in the black market. In December, he suggested that many medical marijuana patients in his state are using their medical conditions as a “pretext” for recreational consumption.
Photo: Benzinga edit with photos from Sam Holland and Gage Skidmore on Wikimedia Commons and OpenRangeStock on Shutterstock