Where Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy Stands On Marijuana And Psychedelics

Where Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy Stands On Marijuana And Psychedelics

Vivek Ramaswamy is currently the only major 2024 GOP presidential candidate to publicly support not just legalizing marijuana but also taking steps to provide regulated access to certain psychedelics, with a focus on therapeutic use.

But the 38-year-old entrepreneur has also made sometimes conflicting comments about his drug policy positions, seemingly walking back more bold calls for reform and challenging reporting on what specific proposals he endorses. And while he’s in favor of legalization, he’s also called for expanding the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), raising eyebrows in the reform community.

Ramaswamy has made a habit of grabbing headlines since entering the race, especially after the first Republican presidential primary debate where he raised his national profile by closely aligning himself with former President Donald Trump and seizing the most speaking time despite sharing a stage with candidates like former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). But he has so far not proactively raised cannabis or psychedelics issues during the debates. Instead, he’s focused much of his drug policy rhetoric on the campaign trail on his plan to use the U.S. military to “annihilate” Mexican cartels in response to the fentanyl crisis.

Ramaswamy’s competitors for the GOP nomination include Trump, DeSantis, Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R)U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) and South Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R).

Here’s where Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy stands on marijuana:

Legislation And Policy Actions

Ramaswamy, a forma pharmaceutical industry executive, has not previously held elected office before and thus does not have a legislative record on drug policy issues.

On The Campaign Trail

Since announcing his candidacy in February 2023, Ramaswamy has on several occasions discussed his views and proposals on drug policy issues. But his platform consists of a mix of somewhat paradoxical positions on the topic.

On the one hand, Ramaswamy has voiced support for federally legalizing marijuana—a stance that separates him from the GOP pack of candidates, as well as incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden, who has rhetorically drawn the line at legalizing medical cannabis and simply decriminalizing marijuana for recreational use.

“Vivek is in favor of federal legalization of marijuana” his campaign said in August 2023. “The current state-level ‘legalization’ farce contributes to the culture of lawbreaking. It’s literally against the law. For us to pretend otherwise only undermines the rule of law in this country.”

He’s previously discussed the need to decriminalize cannabis, acknowledging that it’s “not a popular position in the Republican party,” but he says it’s important for him to “speak the truth.”

Ramaswamy has also gone further on the drug policy front by embracing psychedelics access and, at one point, suggesting that there should be broader drug decriminalization at some point, describing it as an “important” piece of a more comprehensive drug policy.

“I support decriminalizing ayahuasca & ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD, to prevent the epidemic of fentanyl & suicide,” he said in a tweet that came in response to a Fox News article that the candidate criticized because of how it framed his overall decriminalization stance. He called the article “more planted trash.”

Despite painting himself as the victim of a media smear, however, Ramaswamy did not specify which portions of the Fox report, if any, were inaccurate. And while his campaign’s response clarified his position on marijuana, it did not address his comments on other drugs.

In fact, in a June 2023 interview, Ramaswamy repeatedly described decriminalization as an “important” piece of a more comprehensive drug policy, emphasizing his view that tighter border security and reduced U.S. demand for drugs are also essential.

“I think in the long run—and I’m talking about over a long run period of time—decriminalization, serially, is an important part of the long-run solution here,” he said during the appearance at the Porcupine Freedom Festival (PorcFest) in New Hampshire.

Ramaswamy said at the event that he’s skeptical of prohibition and is “not a war-on-drugs person.”

He also stressed the availability of psychedelics as a viable alternative for people who are suffering from mental health conditions.

“I’m probably the only person in the modern history of our party that is open to a conversation about, for veterans at least. Let’s start with PTSD, where there’s good evidence for psychedelics, from ayahuasca to ketamine,” Ramaswamy said. “You could actually have an open discussion about rationally giving people off ramps.”

“I personally know parents whose kids have died, who believe—and I think on good authority—that their kids could have at least survived by having an alternative path,” he said.

But then there’s the other side of the candidate’s drug policy philosophy—one that calls into question the anti-drug war narrative.

Ramaswamy supports an extreme and militarized approach to the fentanyl overdose crisis, sending U.S. troops to the Southern border to “annihilate” Mexican cartels in a “shock-and-awe” campaign.

“I will deploy the U.S. military to protect our *own* border instead of someone else’s. And I will annihilate the Mexican drug cartels: that’s how you end the fentanyl crisis which kills 50x the number of Americans each year vs. the number who died on 9/11,” he said in April 2023. “I refuse to be a passive buffoon who sits in the White House simply watching it happen: we’re going to finally solve this problem.”

Ramaswamy has also called for increasing the staffing and funding of DEA, suggesting that the agency that’s been the chief government enforcer of the drug war should have additional resources to combat fentanyl trafficking.

During a domestic policy speech in September 2023, he detailed a proposal to fire about 75 percent of federal workers and shutter key agencies, but DEA would be exempt, while agents at the FBI would be transferred over to the drug agency.

Ramaswamy said that it’s important to provide that infusion of labor because DEA is “taking on the drug enforcement problems that we have in this country.” But without action to end federal prohibition of marijuana and psychedelics first, the plan could mean increased enforcement of the very laws that Ramaswamy has separately said he wants to change.

During an interview on “Club Random with Bill Maher” in August 2023, Ramaswamy previewed the plan to slash the federal workforce—especially FBI—and build up DEA, which he described as “far more effective on the frontlines of the fentanyl epidemic.” The proposal drew a skeptical reaction from Maher, who has also long decried the failures of the drug war.

“If you’re gonna get rid of an agency why don’t you get rid of that one? The DEA,” Maher said.

“We have laws in this country,” Ramaswamy replied. “So you could debate whether you like the laws or not, but I’m saying, as long as you have the laws, we’re talking about effectiveness here. And my point is the FBI is broken.”

In that same interview, the candidate reiterated his support for federal marijuana legalization, saying the current state-federal conflict on cannabis is “a farce” that allows governments to unfairly target people.

“I think we should align the federal law with the state law,” he said.

But that support for the policy reform is also coupled with a seemingly stigmatizing view about the use of cannabis, as the candidate said in May 2023 that he wants to see increased work requirements for federal social benefits, stating that the government should stop “paying people to stay home, binge TV, smoke pot, & be depressed.”

It’s a talking point that feeds into the increasingly dated and debunked stereotype that marijuana use is inherently associated with laziness.

In June 2023 Ramaswamy also criticized a harm reduction policy in a Pennsylvania city to mitigate the opioid overdose epidemic.

In May 2023, he suggested that China is supplying Mexican drug cartels with ingredients to produce fentanyl-laced products, including “CBD gummies”—a claim with dubious expert sourcing.

After a person questioned what he would do about the domestic drug war, Ramaswamy doubled down on the fentanyl-laced CBD gummies claim.

“I’m all for addressing the demand side too & I will be rolling out policies – ones that you’ll probably like – to address that later. But my point here is that fentanyl *poisoning* is the real problem,” he said. “Lacing gummies with fentanyl is closer to bioterrorism than ‘drug use.’”

Previous Quotes And Social Media Posts

Ramaswamy has a background as a pharmaceutical industry executive and entrepreneur, but his public comments about marijuana and psychedelics have only recently come to the fore.

That said, in June 2022, he was critical of companies that announced plans to provide workers with financial support to access abortion services if they were based in a jurisdiction where such services had been criminalized following a Supreme Court ruling that overruled long-standing protections. In his criticism, he drew a parallel to taking the same type of action to help workers access medical cannabis in legal areas if they worked in a prohibitionist state, seemingly opposing the notion.

“Medical marijuana is legal in some states but not others. It’ll be interesting to see whether companies start paying for travel across state lines to access it,” he said.

Personal Experience With Marijuana

During his interview with Maher in August 2023, Ramaswamy told the host that he doesn’t drink or smoke, adding, “I try to not have too many vices.”

Marijuana Under A Ramaswamy Presidency

Ramaswamy has said that he would legalize marijuana at the federal level—a position that distinguishes him from the other GOP contenders in the running.

His support for some form of psychedelics access, particularly for therapeutic purposes and for vulnerable communities like military veterans suffering from PTSD, is another notable drug policy distinction..

That platform gives reason to assume that Ramaswamy could be an ally for the reform movement if elected president. But at the same time, while he’s commented on the bold plans, he’s also spent considerable time highlighting his proposals to use the military to combat fentanyl trafficking and to expand DEA—positions that would likely give pause to a drug war skeptic, as he’s characterized himself as being.

As such, it’s unclear what drug policy issues the candidate would prioritize if elected to the White House.

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