Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Republican Candidates On Cannabis

Where Do the GOP Presidential Candidates Stand On Pot?


Last week the Republican party held its first primary debate in Milwaukee, WI. While cannabis was not discussed at the debate, it will surely play a role in which way Republican voters lean, since the majority of them support cannabis legalization at the federal level. Do any of the Republican nominees agree with their constituents?

According to a February poll from the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR), 68 percent of likely Republican presidential primary and caucus voters support ending the federal prohibition of cannabis. It also found that 70 percent of GOP voters support allowing states the right to form their own cannabis laws and regulations. CPEAR says this is a 10-point improvement over the results of a similar poll from 2022 that found 58 percent of Republican voters supported cannabis reform. Only 29 percent of respondents said they oppose legalization.

Notably, 52 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to support a candidate who would deschedule cannabis at the federal level and allow states to make their own marijuana policies.

“This polling confirms momentum for cannabis reform is gaining speed,” said CPEAR Executive Director Andrew Freedman in a press release. “It is very encouraging to see significant growth in support among conservatives, and it is not difficult to understand why these numbers are going up. Federal cannabis reform would protect states’ rights, provide veterans access to potential medical benefits, empower law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, and set clear labeling, safety standards, and reduce use among America’s youth.”

Republican lawmakers who support cannabis reform were quick to comment on the poll results.

“The polling is clear: federal cannabis prohibition is in direct contradiction to the overwhelming will of the American electorate, including a notable majority of conservative voters,” said Rep. David Joyce (R-OH). “I hope more of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will heed the call of their constituents and join me in working towards a safe and effectively regulated legal marketplace that respects the rights of the over 40 states that have enacted some varying degree of legality. Continued inaction is no longer tenable.”

“Once again, it appears the only place where Cannabis reform is unpopular is in Washington, D.C. It is time we give states the power to make decisions around cannabis without fear of federal consequences,” said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC)

Where GOP Hopefuls Stand On Weed

While there are more than a dozen Republican nominees running for president, former president Donald Trump and current Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are the most likely candidates to win the nomination. Following behind them are billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy and former Vice President Mike Pence.

The nominees’ positions on cannabis are very different, but one thing they share in common is that they do not reflect the positions of the majority of the Republican voters surveyed in the CPEAR poll.


Trump’s cannabis stance has never been very clear. As was often the case with the former president, it appeared to rely less on conviction and more on the current populist opinion.

During his tenure as president, Trump repeatedly said he supported states’ rights to form their own cannabis policies and the Department of Justice (DOJ) refrained from interfering with state-legal cannabis operations. The DOJ’s lack of movement was especially heartening for cannabis advocates as the U.S. attorney general at the time was Jeff Sessions, an unrelenting anti-cannabis figure who infamously once said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

During an April interview with Rebel HQ, Trump said that studies have shown that cannabis is “not helping people” and “does significant damage.” But he also noted that voters support it. “From a voting standpoint,” he said, “it’s a pretty popular thing.” He said he’d have to get more data before making a conclusion on the federal cannabis policy.

While the recent voter pivot in favor of cannabis reform illustrated by the CPEAR poll could have a significant impact on Trump’s policy, it also remains true that in 2022, the former president hinted at a somewhat extreme drug policy during a speech at the America First Policy Institute.

“The penalties should be very, very severe. If you look at countries throughout the world, the ones that don’t have a drug problem are ones that institute a very quick trial death penalty sentence for drug dealers,” said the former president.


Trump’s head rival DeSantis used to take a more liberal view of cannabis reform. As a congressman, he repeatedly went against the majority of the GOP and voted in favor of appropriations amendments that would limit the federal government’s ability to interfere with state cannabis programs. However, during that time, he also voted against banking reforms and allowing Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors from recommending medical cannabis as treatment.

When he was elected Florida’s governor, he overturned a state ban on smokable medical cannabis but also limited the amount of cannabis that patients could purchase and banned it at sober living facilities.

Recently, legislation signed by DeSantis made eligibility requirements for marijuana industry workers more stringent, eliminating exemptions from employment background screenings for potential employees with criminal backgrounds.

DeSantis’ cannabis stance has become even more conservative since he announced he was running for president. While campaigning in South Carolina in June, DeSantis told a voter he wouldn’t decriminalize cannabis if he was president.

“I think that we have too many people using drugs in this country right now,” he said. “I think it hurts our workforce readiness. I think it hurts people’s ability to prosper and, just in my experience in growing up in the Tampa Bay area in Florida, the kids in high school who got involved in that that I went with, you know, all suffered.”


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