Former President Donald Trump says that marijuana use does “significant damage,” although he acknowledges that legalizing cannabis is a “pretty popular thing” among voters.
Trump, who is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, was asked about marijuana policy during an interview on Newsmax’s “Greg Kelly Reports” last week. Specifically, he was pressed on what he thinks the legalization movement is doing to the country’s “competitiveness” and “psyche.”
“I mean, you see the same studies. It’s not helping people,” Trump said. “I mean, studies are saying that it does damage. It does significant damage—and yet, from a voting standpoint, it’s a pretty popular thing.”
“Canada has gone all that way [with legalization], and other countries have gone all that way. Some countries won’t do it,” he said. “But I am going to take a look at some final results. But indications are that is not exactly helpful.”
Trump also recently angered advocates by suggesting that there may be a link between the use of “genetically engineered” marijuana and mass shootings during a speech at a National Rifle Association (NRA) leadership forum last month.
The former president, who was recently indicted by a grand jury and arrested in New York over dozens of felony charges related to alleged hush money payments to a porn star during his 2020 campaign, has taken a fairly aggressive position on drug policy since announcing his candidacy for 2024.
He’s talked about waging “war on the cartels” and working with Congress to pass legislation to impose the death penalty on “drug dealers” who are “responsible for death, carnage and crime,” for example.
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As president, Trump did not pursue a full-scale crackdown of state-legal cannabis programs and he did voice tentative support for modest reform legislation, but his administration made a number of hostile anti-marijuana actions—from rescinding Obama-era guidance on cannabis prosecutions to implementing policies making immigrants ineligible for citizenship if they consume marijuana or work in the cannabis industry.
During his failed 2020 reelection campaign, supporters worked to depict Trump as the criminal justice reform candidate, repeatedly attacking President Joe Biden over his record as an “architect” of punitive drug laws during his decades in the Senate.
Whether he will maintain this anti-marijuana rhetoric is yet to be seen. But while Republicans are less likely to support cannabis legalization compared to Democrats and independents, the issue has become increasingly bipartisan.
It seems that he’s working to walk a fine line, expressing negative views about cannabis reform while still leaving the door open to analyze the impacts of legalization. Part of the calculus appears to be Trump’s understanding that political candidates stand to benefit from embracing the popular issue.
Previously, he’s urged Republicans not to place marijuana legalization initiatives on state ballots out of concern that it could increase Democratic turnout in elections.
In terms of the risks of cannabis use, Trump has long held that there are negative consequences. He said in a leaked audio recording from 2018 that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points,” for example.