We’re halfway through 2023, meaning most of the Republican candidates for presidency have already thrown their hats into the ring.
While Trump is still the frontrunner by a mile, things change fast in politics, and it all really depends on where things stand weeks before the election, so for now it’s safe to presume that it’s all up in the air. So let’s take a look at what each of the candidates would do about marijuana if they’re in office.
Spoiler alert: it’s not very promising.
Trump has a bit of an extreme view on drug punishment. He has long respected the policy of Duterte in the Philippines, who puts drug dealers and traffickers to death frequently. However, Trump’s views on marijuana are vague, and it seems if the public favor was strong enough for legalization, he’d support the effort solely for the major cool points he’d receive in return. In 2018, Trump supported a bill that would allow states to set their own marijuana policies. So despite his ultra-violent rhetoric, Trump may be much softer on marijuana and even positive in some instances.
Ron Desantis has a much clearer view on the subject. In 2019, Desantis allowed medical marijuana to pass in the state of Florida while he was governor due to “the will of the voters.” However, at the time he said that he doesn’t think marijuana should be recreationally legal. One of the reasons he stated was that it makes it more difficult for young people to succeed. Another often mocked reason given by DeSantis is the smell of marijuana. In 2022, he said “I could not believe the pungent odor that you would see in some of these places and I don’t want to see that here. I want people to be able to breathe freely.” So if DeSantis becomes president, don’t hold your breath. Or maybe do…
One of the newer candidates, Mike Pence has a pretty firm stance against marijuana.
“To be candid with you, growing up in the Hoosier State, I’ve seen too many people become involved with marijuana and have their lives sidetracked as a result,” he said during a debate in 2012. Pence sees marijuana as a gateway into heavier drugs, and that pretty much makes it cased closed in his book.
Similar to Trump, Nikki Haley would like to punt the issue to the states, saying it’s best decided on a state-by-state basis. Time will tell if that position has evolved, since she hasn’t spoken of the issue since announcing her candidacy.
Tim Scott’s time in the Senate has only drawn a very vague picture as to where he stands on marijuana. He has voted against the SAFE Banking Act believing it will create more harm than it would solve, and against protecting state marijuana laws from federal interference. Scott has spoken of concerns over legalization, but it seems his official position is still to be determined.
We’re starting to get into the long shot campaigns, but Ramaswamy’s stance is a nice change of pace. Ramaswamy unequivocally supports the legalization of marijuana. In addition, he would release anyone from jail who are solely serving drug offenses. While his self-funded campaign may remain on the outskirts, his views are refreshing for a Republican nominee.
Finally, Mr. Christie is back in the ring. Christie falls squarely into the “gateway drug” category and has compared the tax revenue that states receive from marijuana sales to “blood money”. So let’s close that door just as fast as we’ve opened it.
The silver lining at the end of all of this is that it seems a good portion of candidates are keeping their definitive opinion to themselves until they decide just how popular legalization really is. And using the past few years as evidence, legalization gets more and more citizens on its side as time passes.