Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), a GOP 2024 presidential candidate, says she agrees with federal health officials in the Biden administration that marijuana should be rescheduled, stating that cannabis “obviously” doesn’t belong in the same category as heroin.
During a town hall event hosted by CNN ahead of the New Hampshire primary election, Haley was asked if she would support moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“I think I’ll go with the scientists on that,” she said. “I think it’s obviously not in the same class as heroin.”
She then reiterated her broader states’ right marijuana policy position, saying she wants “states to be able to decide” on legalization.
“That’s something that should be as close to the people as possible. Some states are all for it and want to see that happen, and some states want nothing to do with it,” Haley said. “But I do think that should be more of a state decision on whether they legalize it or not.”
The candidate made similar remarks at a separate event in Iowa last week, while noting that she signed legislation as governor of South Carolina to enact a strictly limited medical cannabis law that only permits low-THC extracts for certain patients with a doctor’s recommendation.
That’s why lawmakers in that state have continued to work on advancing comprehensive medical cannabis legislation, with a key Republican senator now pushing for a vote on a GOP-led proposal next month.
Last May, Haley also described herself as a “states’ rights person” after she was asked about cannabis policy.
Haley, who also served as United Nations (UN) ambassador under President Donald Trump, doesn’t have an especially extensive cannabis background. She has previously express openness to continuing conversations with advocates and lawmakers about the issue, though.
In 2014, the then-governor also put her signature on a bill to legalize industrial hemp in South Carolina and remove the nonintoxicating form of the cannabis plant from the state’s definition of illegal marijuana.
Her statement about states’ rights generally aligns her with the other top competitors for the party nomination, Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
However, while DeSantis has similarly talked about letting states navigate legalization, he’s expressed personal opposition to the broad reform and said last summer that he would not move to federally decriminalize cannabis if elected.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden stands to make significant political gains if marijuana is rescheduled under his administrative directive, according to a new survey that reveals majority support for the reform.
HHS recommended the rescheduling action upon completion of a scientific review last year, but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reserves “final authority” in the matter.
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