Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy says he supports federally legalizing marijuana and allowing veterans with PTSD to use certain psychedelics—but his campaign is also attacking a recent Fox News article that suggested he supports decriminalizing “certain hard drugs” even though he recently said the broader reform would be an “important” part of broader strategy.
“Vivek is in favor of federal legalization of marijuana” his campaign said on Monday in response to the news report. “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.”
Ramaswamy also posted on social media: “I support decriminalizing ayahuasca & ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD, to prevent the epidemic of fentanyl & suicide.”
The statements come as the 38-year-old entrepreneur works to clarify his position on drug policy following the Fox News article, which described him as “breaking with his party” by supporting drug decriminalization.
“When you strike the swamp, the swamp strikes back,” he wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, dismissing the article as “more planted trash.”
More planted trash. I support decriminalizing ayahuasca & ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD, to prevent the epidemic of fentanyl & suicide. It’s pathetic that Establishment candidates are using lies as a substitute for a message. When you strike the swamp, the swamp… https://t.co/NHrQ2lxadb
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) August 15, 2023
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 comments to Fox News clarified his position on marijuana, it did not address his comments on other drugs.
In fact, in a recent 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 an appearance in late June 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.”
A number of other GOP politicians have recently come out in favor of loosening restrictions on psychedelics. Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX), for instance, called his personal experiences with ibogaine “one of the greatest things that ever happened to me.”
Ramaswamy, for his part, said that “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.”
In the same interview, he also said the U.S. needs to strengthen border protections to prevent the entry of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl from Mexico and China. “Many of the people who are dying of fentanyl usage, they thought that they were smoking a different drug—smoking weed, potentially potentially having a Percocet.” he said. “Actually a lot of kids are getting it through Snapchat, via Percocet, directly coming across the southern border via Mexican drug cartels.”
“While we need to deal with the demand side problem here,” Ramaswamy said, “decriminalization is an important part of that.”
As for marijuana, prior to his campaign’s comments on Monday in favor of federal legalization, the GOP candidate typically said he supported the more limited decriminalization of cannabis.
“I think it should be decriminalized,” he said last month during an appearance on the Cartier Family YouTube channel. “I think it’s a farce that we have a local regime where it’s decriminalized with the federal government says wink and nod, look the other way. We got to catch up with the times. It’s not a popular position in the Republican party, but I, just again, like I said, I had to speak the truth.”
Other GOP presidential candidates have so far been more circumspect about legalizing marijuana federally.
Former President Donald Trump has simultaneously described cannabis as “a very popular thing” even while contending that it “does damage.”
“Canada has gone all that way [with legalization], and other countries have gone all that way. Some countries won’t do it,” he said during a recent interview with Newsmax. “But I am going to take a look at some final results. But indications are that is not exactly helpful.”
DeSantis, for his part, said in June that he would not federally decriminalize cannabis if elected. He said he’s concerned about the potency of marijuana and, despite a lack of evidence, the possibility that products could be laced with more dangerous drugs such as fentanyl. “If you do something with that, it could be goodnight right then and there,” he said. “You could die just by ingesting that, so I think that that’s problematic.”
Mike Pence, who served as vice president under Trump, has long been against marijuana use and has consistently opposed even incremental reform, claiming that cannabis is a gateway to other illicit drugs. As governor of Indiana, he pushed the legislature to ramp up criminalization of illicit substances—saying the state was “leaning into the war on drugs”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, meanwhile, claimed in June that he would “end” the drug war if elected, but only partially. He said he wants to focus instead on treatment, but he prescribed a tougher approach for those who sell drugs. “The dealers who are making money off of this, you bet they should be penalized,” he said during a CNN townhall. And Christie still opposes the legalization of marijuana, describing tax revenue from regulated sales as “blood money.”
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as a Democrat, took a swipe at DeSantis over his opposition to reform. If elected, he said, “I will decriminalize cannabis at the federal level.” He later declined an invitation to smoke a joint with comedian Bill Maher.
Kennedy’s decriminalization position aligns him to some extent with President Joe Biden, who has also backed decriminalization and allowing states to set their own cannabis laws. The president has also directed an administrative review into marijuana’s federal scheduling that one top official recently told Marijuana Moment he hopes to have completed by the year’s end.