U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) announced that he was running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination against the party’s frontrunner former President Donald Trump on May 22, 2023. He dropped out of the race on November 12.
As far as marijuana policy goes, Scott’s record is thin. During his time in the House, he voted against an amendment on protecting state medical cannabis programs. But overall, his drug platform has mostly focused on what he views as the nexus between border policies and opioid trafficking.
The senator serves as the Republican ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, which held a markup of a bipartisan bill to protect financial institutions that work with state-legal cannabis businesses in September 2023. He was among the minority who voted “no” on the legislation, though he was not present and recorded his vote by proxy. He’s also said that, overall, he continues to have “concerns” about legalization efforts.
Generally speaking, his position on marijuana reform has been relatively muted, rather than vocally hostile. Other candidates vying for the party’s presidential nomination—like former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) and Trump—have more established records on the issue.
Here’s where Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott stands on marijuana:
Legislation And Policy Actions
One of the most telling legislative actions on cannabis policy that Scott has taken happened during his time in the House, when he voted against a 2012 spending bill amendment to protect state medical cannabis programs from federal interference.
Since joining the Senate in 2013, he hasn’t had many opportunities to cast votes on marijuana reform proposals—and he hasn’t proactively sought to sponsor or cosponsor any such legislation.
He did, however, cosponsor a drug policy-related resolution sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that recognizes March 19-25, 2023 as “National Poison Prevention Week” and encourages communities to “raise awareness of the dangers of poisoning and promote poison prevention”—including the issues of “accidental edible cannabis ingestion” and “opioid and fentanyl misuse.”
At a Banking Committee hearing in May 2023, Scott discussed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to safeguard banks that work with state-licensed cannabis businesses.
“Each one of us on this committee represents different states with different marijuana laws, and I understand that some of us may be in very different places when it comes to the legality of marijuana,” he said. “In my home state of South Carolina, marijuana is largely still illegal—and I myself have concerns with it.”
When it comes to the incremental financial services reform, Scott said that “as a former small business owner, I understand and appreciate the importance of having that relationship with your financial institution. A banking relationship is crucial to providing safety and stability for a company’s employees and the customers it serves.”
When the banking bill came up for a committee vote in September 2023, he voted “no” by proxy while he was in California ahead of a primary debate.
A spokesperson for his office told Politico that the congressman was “concerned that allowing the banking of a federally illegal product while not doing enough to prevent the de-banking of legal industries like firearms manufacturers and energy producers sends the wrong message to the American people.”
Scott also served in the South Carolina House from 2009-2011, but he didn’t take any relevant drug policy actions during his tenure.
He doesn’t appear to have participated in a House roll call vote approving a large-scale criminal justice omnibus bill in 2010 that, among other things, made it so cannabis possession was no longer counted as a second or subsequent offense if the person’s first possession conviction happened more than five years ago.
On The Campaign Trail
It does not appear that Scott has discussed marijuana policy issues since announcing his candidacy on May 22, 2023.
Previous Quotes And Social Media Posts
At an American Bankers Association (ABA) Washington Summit in March 2023, Scott said that the federal-state marijuana banking conflict will “come to a conclusion likely in this Congress.”
He stressed the importance of addressing the SAFE Banking Act during regular order, calling it “an important decision, as opposed to rushing it to the floor.”
“There are Republicans who’ve come out very positively on behalf of the SAFE Act. I’m not one of those Republicans, but there is a bipartisan coalition who wants to have a serious conversation about the challenges that it would solve,” he said. “And the question is: does that legislation actually solve more challenges than it creates harm?”
Scott also said that lawmakers need to take on the broader debate about federal marijuana legalization, which is “something that we’re going to have to wrestle with as a nation and as a Congress and get to an answer there.”
“But there is a bipartisan coalition who wants to have that conversation, so I think that’s good news,” he said. “Both sides want to go through regular order—that’s better news. I think we’ll come to a conclusion likely in this Congress.”
The senator hasn’t used social media to specifically discuss cannabis issues, though he’s frequently posted about other drug-related topics, focusing on illicit drug trafficking.
In May 2023, he posted about legislation he’s cosponsoring this Congress that is meant to curb fentanyl trafficking by increasing executive and administrative enforcement authorities and declaring the issue a national emergency.
President Biden’s incoherent border policies are enabling drug traffickers to bring fentanyl into our communities.
My FEND Off Fentanyl Act aims to curb the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. by targeting the money that funds the cartels’ illegal activities. pic.twitter.com/6xNOoaq5rU
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) May 15, 2023
“President Biden’s incoherent border policies are enabling drug traffickers to bring fentanyl into our communities,” he said.
My friend's son lost his life to fentanyl.
This deadly drug is destroying communities in South Carolina and across the country.
It's time to take action! That's why I've introduced the FEND Off Fentanyl Act to cut off the flow of fentanyl into our country. pic.twitter.com/9VFuV2AZqw
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) May 8, 2023
“Our nation’s drug crisis continues to worsen due to President Biden’s mishandling of our Southern border,” he said last year. “New federal data on drug overdoses fueled by the spread of illicit fentanyl shows the heartbreaking impact on communities across our country.”
Our nation's drug crisis continues to worsen due to President Biden's mishandling of our Southern border. New federal data on drug overdoses fueled by the spread of illicit fentanyl shows the heartbreaking impact on communities across our country. https://t.co/YOmfuabmgt
— Tim Scott (@votetimscott) May 13, 2022
He also discussed a bill he sponsored last year that sought to preemptively prevent the use of federal funds to distribute crack cocaine paraphernalia under a coronavirus relief package.
It's ludicrous that we even have to discuss the possibility of federal $$ funding crack pipe distributions. I’m proud to join my colleagues on a bill to ensure the Biden admin does not fuel dangerous drug addictions at the expense of American taxpayers.https://t.co/30OIfWIkTe
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) February 11, 2022
“It’s ludicrous that we even have to discuss the possibility of federal $$ funding crack pipe distributions,” he said. “I’m proud to join my colleagues on a bill to ensure the Biden admin does not fuel dangerous drug addictions at the expense of American taxpayers.”
In 2019, Scott touted drug courts in South Carolina, calling the alternative sentencing model “essential to lowering recidivism, reunifying families, and making our communities safer.”
The work that South Carolina Drug Courts are doing is essential to lowering recidivism, reunifying families, and making our communities safer. Glad to have been able to chat with the SC Association of Drug Court Professionals this morning in Charleston! pic.twitter.com/Qgod3NglVu
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) February 25, 2019
Personal Experience With Marijuana
It does not appear that Scott has publicly discussed any personal experience he’s had with marijuana.
Marijuana Under A Scott Presidency
The limited actions and comments in Scott’s cannabis policy record leave open questions about how he would approach the issue if elected president.
On the one hand, he hasn’t been outwardly hostile to marijuana legislation. But on the other hand, he’s expressed ongoing “concerns” about legalization, as well as modest reform like the SAFE Banking Act—and he did vote against protecting state medical cannabis laws from federal interference. At the least, that leaves the impression that he would not be a champion of efforts to end federal prohibition.