Florida Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (R) has promised to uphold federal cannabis prohibition if elected president.
DeSantis trotted out his official opposition to federal legalization at a campaign rally in South Carolina last week. At the event, a concerned attendee begged him to “please” decriminalize cannabis if he were elected, on behalf of military veterans who could benefit from medicinal marijuana. “I don’t think we would do that,” he responded, according to Marijuana Moment.
The governor did acknowledge that his home state's highly successful medical marijuana program “actually allowed access” to veterans. But he argued that the program was “controversial because obviously there’s some people that abuse it and are using it recreationally.” DeSantis has already moved to restrict Florida's medical marijuana program, but this rally is the first time that he promised to oppose legalization on the federal level.
As expected, DeSantis' opposition to weed is rooted in outdated “reefer madness” myths. He first brought up the popular Boomer concern that the cannabis “that they're putting on the street” is far more potent than it used to be. He then moved on to the myth that many cannabis products are laced with fentanyl. Drug labs have found occasional evidence of fentanyl being added to cocaine, MDMA, or other synthetic drugs, but have yet to officially confirm a case of fentanyl-laced weed.
Of course, no prohibitionist rant is complete without an appeal to “protect the kids.” DeSantis talked about people he knew in high school who “suffered” because they got high. “All their activities, all their grades and everything like that—so particularly for the youth, I just think we have to be united,” he said, according to Marijuana Moment. “I think that we have too many people using drugs in this country right now. I think it hurts our workforce readiness. I think it hurts people’s ability to prosper in life.”
DeSantis' highly conservative policies have made him popular with some extremist Republicans, but his opposition to legal weed is not as likely to connect with his audience. Several recent polls have reported that a solid majority of Americans favor federal cannabis legalization, regardless of political party or affiliation. Some of the nation's most conservative states, including Missouri and Montana, have even voted to legalize adult-use cannabis.
The fact that DeSantis' own potential voter base is asking him to legalize weed, and in South Carolina no less, is a clear indication that legalization is a non-partisan issue. Regardless, the candidate is sticking to his guns, even though it ultimately may cost him the vote. Former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who unsuccessfully challenged DeSantis in last year's gubernatorial race, was quick to point out this serious flaw in his strategy.
“Over 70% of Floridians want legal cannabis and almost 100% want it decriminalized,” Fried tweeted. “Ron doesn’t care what the people want.”