2024 Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. took a swing at rival GOP contender Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Sunday over his opposition to marijuana decriminalization—and he pledged to enact federal cannabis reform if elected.
He did, however, decline an offer to smoke a joint with comedian Bill Maher during an interview that was posted on the same day.
The son of former Attorney General Robert Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy shared a link to a Marijuana Moment article about recent cannabis remarks by DeSantis and tweeted that the Republican presidential hopeful’s “opposition to marijuana decriminalization is wrong.”
DeSantis' opposition to marijuana decriminalization is wrong. I will decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. Current situation with contradictory state + federal laws is absurd. States should be able to decide without federal interference. #Kennedy24https://t.co/GtFZRJwCAa
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) June 25, 2023
“I will decriminalize cannabis at the federal level,” he said. “Current situation with contradictory state + federal laws is absurd. States should be able to decide without federal interference.”
Kennedy, whose bid against incumbent President Joe Biden and views around vaccines have earned him criticism from many Democrats, has a relatively thin record when it comes to cannabis policy. But he is now tapping into an issue that enjoys supermajority support among voters in the party.
This isn’t the first time that the candidate has weighed in on drug policy since entering the 2024 race. Last month, he blamed U.S. policies, including the war on drugs, for exacerbating problems with immigration and promised to “change” federal laws, accordingly.
The most crucial aspect of the immigration crisis is rarely discussed: Why are so many people so desperate in the first place to leave their homes and countries behind for an uncertain future? The answer is uncomfortable. In large part, it is U.S. policies that create desperate…
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) May 3, 2023
In the background of Kennedy’s support for reform is a bit of personal experience, as he was arrested for marijuana possession during his youth in 1970 and later arrested for possession of heroin in 1984.
He briefly spoke about being 40 years sober during an interview on the podcast “Club Random with Bill Maher” on Sunday, as he declined Maher’s offer to smoke with him on the show—though he didn’t seem to mind the comedian inhaling a lit joint in his presence.
In terms of drug policy, Kennedy is most known for holding views about pharmaceuticals and contemporary therapies that clash with mainstream scientific consensus. He’s used his platform to question the efficacy and side effects of vaccines—including those for COVID, for example.
In any case, he jumped on the opportunity to slam DeSantis for taking the unpopular position that marijuana is an exceptionally dangerous drug that he would not move to decriminalize if he won the White House.
Kennedy’s decriminalization position aligns him with 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.
Meanwhile, several other Republican 2024 presidential hopefuls have addressed drug policy issues in recent weeks.
For example, former President Donald Trump seemed confused during a recent interview when he was confronted with the fact that his proposed plan to impose the death penalty on drug traffickers would have condemned a woman he pardoned and promoted as an example of a key criminal justice reform achievement during his administration.
At a CNN town hall event this month, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said that he would “end” the war on drugs if elected, emphasizing the need for a treatment-based approach to people experiencing addiction—while at the same time maintaining that he’d seek to increase enforcement against those who sell drugs.
Image element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.