Former President Donald Trump is suggesting there may be a link between the use of “genetically engineered” marijuana and mass shootings.
At a speech at a National Rifle Association (NRA) leadership forum on Friday, Trump listed a number of controversial and unproven factors that he said he’d direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate as possibly causing the ongoing scourge of mass shooting afflicting the country.
“We have to look at whether common psychiatric drugs, as well as genetically engineered cannabis and other narcotics, are causing psychotic breaks” that lead to gun violence, he said.
Trump, who is running for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, said he’d “direct the FDA to convene an independent outside panel to investigate” his theory, as well as whether the issue is related to “transgender hormone treatments and ideology,” which he claimed increases “the risk of extreme depression, aggression and even violence.”
Seeking to steer blame for mass shootings away from the firearms industry in front of the friendly audience, Trump said that “this is not a gun problem.”
“This is a mental health problem,” he said. “This is a social problem. This is a cultural problem. This is a spiritual problem.”
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, hasn’t previously discussed his belief that there’s a possible causal relationship between cannabis use and violence.
However, he has taken an aggressive position on drug policy since announcing his candidacy for 2024.
He 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.
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.
His comments at the NRA event on Friday paint a decidedly different picture of the candidate, signaling that his perspective on marijuana has taken on a conspiratorial new tone, echoing points made by the author Alex Berenson.
For what it’s worth, there are several studies that have identified an association between cannabis legalization and decreased incidents of domestic violence.
It’s not exactly clear what Trump meant by “genetically engineered” marijuana. It’s possible he’s leaning into concerns about high-potency THC cannabis products.
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. And his choice to make the controversial association is likely to alienate parts of his base that have held out hope he would lead the charge on ending cannabis prohibition.
Meanwhile, there are multiple ongoing federal court cases concerning the federal ban blocking cannabis consumers from buying and possessing firearms. Trump-appointed federal judges have deemed the ban unconstitutional.