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Ron DeSantis Is Against Legal Marijuana


Ron DeSantis is an authoritarian on harm reduction policies like broad marijuana legalization

At a recent campaign event in South Carolina, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that legalizing cannabis in any form wouldn’t be on his legislative agenda if elected to the White House after the 2024 election. The remarks came after a potential voter asked if he would decriminalize marijuana in the year 2025. “I don’t think we would do that,” the governor responded to the voter, alluding to his state’s medical marijuana program that was adopted by the voters through a constitutional amendment ballot measure.

68 percent of American voters are in favor of nationwide legalization.

DeSantis advanced rules for medical cannabis but he wouldn’t pursue a national approach to marijuana. He expressed concern about potential addiction and excessive weed use among minors.

Gov. DeSantis announced his run for the United States presidency in 2024 amid the legal troubles facing former President Donald Trump, including state and federal indictments for a variety of felony crimes he committed during his tumultuous presidency.

Unpacking Trump

Considered a Trump alternative, DeSantis shares several of the same beliefs as the former president, including the position on legalizing and regulating marijuana at a national level. As the next presidential primary campaign season is already started, it proves crucial that a potential presidential nominee recognizes how the vast majority of American voters are in favor of ending the war on drugs and legalizing marijuana for personal usage.

The Pew Research Center indicates that only about 1 in 10 voters believe that marijuana should be outlawed. 88 percent of adults believe that marijuana should be legal or medical and legal use. 59 percent want both. 30 percent only believe in medicinal use.

Florida has long outlawed recreational marijuana.

Data from a Morning Consult survey indicates that three in five voters think that marijuana should be legalized across the whole country. Almost half of that survey believe that marijuana reform should be a congressional priority — some saying that it should be “top” or “important” on the priority lists. But what’s important in this data is that the folks to win in any U.S. election are the unaffiliated voters — or voters who aren’t affiliated with the major political parties; independent voters in some circles. In the data from Morning Consult, 61 percent of independent voters are in favor of legalizing marijuana in some format. A Gallup survey, which found 68 percent of American voters in favor of nationwide legalization, found that 71 percent of independents believe that marijuana should be legal. Data from another Gallup study shows that about 49 percent of voters are independent when 25 percent are “Democrats” and yet another 25 percent are “Republicans.”

During the 2020 election, we reported that Donald Trump had a failing grade when it came to how he and his administration handled the e-cigarette and vaporizer industries as the premarket tobacco application deadline closed. The Trump administration went down in history as the president to ban flavored vapes and raise the tobacco consumption age from 18 years to 21 years in a slight against tobacco harm reduction product access for those now under the minimum legal sales age. He also appointed the agency executives and cabinet members that have implemented the Obama administration’s Tobacco Control Act regulations. He wasn’t any better on marijuana either. He did very little to reform marijuana laws and only ever improved the legal environment for industrial hemp products. He also only ever expressed the right of the states to legalize marijuana rather than commit to broad and successive reforms like restorative justice policies, criminal record expungement, and economic incentives for the adoption of new marijuana businesses, banking infrastructure, and regulations.

How is DeSantis different?

Gov. DeSantis is quite similar in his positions. DeSantis increased the tobacco age in Florida, the third largest state in the union by population, to 21 years from 18 years. While he was a bit more considerate of vape shops, DeSantis was still governor during the noncommunicable EVALI outbreak right before the global COVID-19 pandemic. Based on our reporting from late 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began coordinating with state health departments across the country after reports of lung injury linked to vaping unregulated cannabis-containing pods or closed system devices. There was no official diagnosis until the CDC classified it as an e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). DeSantis entered office in January 2019. The injury outbreak occurred during the late half of that year, with a rapid increase in cases in August and September.

Granted, Florida has long outlawed recreational marijuana. While felony marijuana charges aren’t as high as in Texas, the state has cashed in on fines for marijuana misdemeanors, Florida does have a medical marijuana program that was adopted by voters in 2016 for a variety of ailments, including post-traumatic stress disorder that is quite prevalent among military veterans. However, under the direction and support of the DeSantis administration, state Attorney General Ashley Moody (also a Republican) has sued to block the most recent constitutional ballot initiative to finally legalize recreational marijuana. Moody is trying to split hairs and claims that the measure should only touch a single aspect and not a sweeping measure. But, the marijuana measure, in many ways, is a single issue because it creates a constitutional framework to amend state law and implement regulations for the legal market.

Gov. DeSantis is a staunch supporter of Moody, as Moody is of DeSantis. She went on to national news to defend DeSantis after he was accused of being a racist with an affinity for certain white Christian nationalist ideologies, including being anti-LGBTQ rights.

In 2022, DeSantis said that he was against legalization during an interview with Politico. “I think a lot of those other areas that have done it, you know, have ended up regretting it.” This is a sentiment that is really only held by governors and politicians who are against marijuana legalization. In states where legalization is a success, the regulatory environments are highly developed and support restricting sales to legal adults and enforcing regulations in an equitable fashion. Crime rates have also decreased in these states and policing has improved to some degree in some of the largest cities. DeSantis neglects this information when he says that recreational marijuana isn’t a viable policy intervention.

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