2024 Republican Candidate Stances on Cannabis Legalization: Trump, Haley, DeSantis

One of these people could determine the near future of legalization in America. What do they care about weed?

by Justin Hall · January 10, 2024

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley looking happy and sleepy with lidded eyes are sitting around a single glass water tube filled with water and smoke coming out of the top resting on a table

In early 2024 as the US election looms, the field of Republican presidential candidates is winnowing down to a few ambitious souls. One of these people could determine the near future of legalization in America. What do they care about weed? Do they support legalize it, or do they just criticize it?

Republicans on the whole ended the 20th century mostly standing against sex drugs and rock and roll. This included cannabis, seemingly anathema to the culture of conservatism and deep connections with the religious right. However, as individual states have legalized first medical and then recreational, constituents of all stripes have been voting with their wallets and their lighters. Still the laws have not kept up: the Biden administration is gradually circulating memos about rescheduling cannabis while Americans light up repeatedly as humans have for millennia. And the Republican candidates don't seem eager to play Prometheus sparking your joint.

Politicians tend to be older than the population. Maybe their opposition is generational; maybe 2024 is the year when cannabis can be a breakout issue. According to a November 24, 2023 article "Cannabis redraws US’s 2024 electoral map" from the Financial Times by Sam Learner, "Support for marijuana legalisation has reached a majority across parties."

You'd think an issue as popular as marijuana tolerance with the general electorate would be a bandwagon for politicians. Let's check with the Republican frontrunners:

The leading 2024 Republican presidential candidate, Former President Donald Trump staked out a sad stance in Spring 2023. SAD! On Newsmax's “Greg Kelly Reports" the host asked: You're a teetotaler [non-drinker]. What do you think that's doing overall to our competitiveness to our to our psyche as a country?" to which Trump replied: “I mean, you see the same studies. It’s not helping people. I mean, studies are saying that it does damage. It does significant damage—and yet, from a voting standpoint, it’s a pretty popular thing.” So we are not optimistic about smart moves from Trump for legalization overall, but perhaps the business opportunity around it will appeal to his animal spirits and he will unleash a broad weed market.

Ron DeSantis Governor of Florida is opposed to adult use cannabis legalization. In the past he he spoke out against recreational: “What I don’t like about it is if you go to some of these places that have done it, the stench when you’re out there, I mean, it smells so putrid. I could not believe the pungent odor that you would see in some of these places. I don’t want to see that here. I want people to be able to breathe freely.” This is according to 2024 coverage from A.G. Gancarski FloridaPolitics.com. If DeSantis has that kind of visceral response to smoked cannabis, odds are he's not ready to lead our warring tribes to the lands of weed peace.

Former Governor of South Carolina and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has a less confrontational stance. She's pushing states rights. Thursday January 11 Haley told Iowa political director Dave Price. "I think that's something that needs to be handled close to the people, and so I think all the states should be able to decide on that.” quoted by Nina Zdinjak, a writer for Benzinga in "Nikki Haley On Repeat: 'I Would Leave Cannabis Legalization To States,' What About Federal Law Clash?". Haley's is the most deflective posture of these actors we have examined. Her stance doesn't sound like an embrace of any Federal legalization effort, through perhaps if she is the big money Republican candidate she will play along with the growing market power of this plant.

No Republican candidate has spoken out on the DEA's anticipated rescheduling of cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III, nor the legalization landscape thereafter. No candidate is talking about the benefits or opportunities for smart access to cannabis. No candidate for national leader is ready to talk about an end to broad prohibition. Maybe the eventual Republican nominee will see cannabis as a cross party issue and they might reach out with a radical gesture. Maybe money from cannabis and hemp will finally overtake whatever political donation money that is coming from the team investing in limiting legal weed. The Republican frontrunners are not We'll keep an eye on 2024 for you.