Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out of the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on January 15, 2024. He was the only major 2024 GOP presidential candidate to publicly support not just legalizing marijuana but also taking steps to provide regulated access to certain psychedelics, with a focus on therapeutic use.
But the 38-year-old entrepreneur has also made sometimes conflicting comments about his drug policy positions, seemingly walking back more bold calls for reform and challenging reporting on what specific proposals he endorses. And while he’s in favor of federal legalization, he also voted against an Ohio ballot measure to end cannabis prohibition at the state level and called for expanding the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), raising eyebrows in the reform community.
Ramaswamy has made a habit of grabbing headlines since entering the race, especially after the first Republican presidential primary debate where he raised his national profile by closely aligning himself with former President Donald Trump and seizing the most speaking time despite sharing a stage with candidates like former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). But he has so far not proactively raised cannabis or psychedelics issues during the debates. Instead, he’s focused much of his drug policy rhetoric on the campaign trail on his plan to use the U.S. military to “annihilate” Mexican cartels in response to the fentanyl crisis.
Ramaswamy’s competitors for the GOP nomination include Trump, DeSantis, Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) and South Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R).
This story was last updated on January 19, 2024 to include the candidate’s statements and policy actions on marijuana since joining the race.
Here’s where Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy stands on marijuana:
Legislation And Policy Actions
Ramaswamy, a forma pharmaceutical industry executive, has not previously held elected office before and thus does not have a legislative record on drug policy issues.
On The Campaign Trail
Since announcing his candidacy in February 2023, Ramaswamy has on several occasions discussed his views and proposals on drug policy issues. But his platform consists of a mix of somewhat paradoxical positions on the topic.
On the one hand, Ramaswamy has voiced support for federally legalizing marijuana—a stance that separates him from the GOP pack of candidates, as well as incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden, who has rhetorically drawn the line at legalizing medical cannabis and simply decriminalizing marijuana for recreational use.
“Vivek is in favor of federal legalization of marijuana” his campaign said in August 2023. “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.”
He’s previously discussed the need to decriminalize cannabis, acknowledging that it’s “not a popular position in the Republican party,” but he says it’s important for him to “speak the truth.”
Yet despite this policy position, Ramaswamy took advocates by surprise when he disclosed that he personally voted against a successful marijuana legalization initiative in his home state of Ohio during the November 2023 election.
He said that the reform represented an “abandonment of the rule of law” given federal prohibition and that he doesn’t support revenue funding equity programs.
At a GOP presidential primary debate one day after the November 2023 election, cannabis lobbyist Don Murphy pressed Ramaswamy about his cannabis vote during a break and again after the event concluded.
The candidate said his vote was based on his concern that the federal government could “weaponize” criminalization against people who are engaged in state-legal cannabis activities under the “fake” pretense that they’re protected from federal prosecution.
— Don Murphy (@donmurphy12a) November 9, 2023
“My view is fix the federal laws,” he said, adding that the patchwork of state marijuana programs while the plant remains federally prohibited creates “total confusion.”
Ramaswamy has separately embraced psychedelics access and, at one point, suggesting that there should be broader drug decriminalization at some point, describing it as an “important” piece of a more comprehensive drug policy.
“I support decriminalizing ayahuasca & ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD, to prevent the epidemic of fentanyl & suicide,” he said in a tweet that came in response to a Fox News article that the candidate criticized because of how it framed his overall decriminalization stance. He called the article “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
In a campaign site page dedicated to debunking “fake news,” the candidate also pushed back against the Fox report.
“You’d have to be smoking something pretty potent to think that Vivek ‘favors legalizing hard drugs.’ Even conservative media took the bait on this one,” the site says, adding that he “supports decriminalizing ayahuasca, ketamine, and psilocybin therapies for veterans who suffer from PTSD, to prevent the epidemic of fentanyl and suicide.”
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 response clarified his position on marijuana, it did not address his comments on other drugs.
In fact, in a June 2023 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 the appearance 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.”
“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,” he said.
Ramaswamy also released a veterans policy platform in November 2023 that says, if elected, he would remove federal restrictions on marijuana and psychedelics such as ayahuasca and MDMA to free up access for military veterans suffering from serious mental health conditions.
Today, over 20 (and by some estimates, 40+) veterans die by suicide *per day.* This is wrong & un-American. I support decriminalizing ayahuasca & ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD, to prevent the epidemic of fentanyl & suicide. We must also drastically improve the…
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) November 12, 2023
He called for psychedelics descheduling as part of the plan that’s meant to take a “holistic approach” the high rates of substance misuse and suicide within the veteran population.
At a campaign event in Iowa in December 2023, the Republican candidate spoke with an attendee who voiced support for the therapeutic use of certain psychedelics. Ramaswamy said that he agreed there’s a need to make plant-based medicines available, though he wants to start with veterans suffering from PTSD.
“What was whacky yesterday is true today. That’s what history teaches us,” he said.
Ramaswamy said in an X post that he supports “decriminalizing ayahuasca & ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD, to prevent the epidemic of fentanyl & suicide.”
Today, over 20 (and by some estimates, 40+) veterans die by suicide *per day.* This is wrong & un-American. I support decriminalizing ayahuasca & ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD, to prevent the epidemic of fentanyl & suicide. We must also drastically improve the… pic.twitter.com/12uHBsQucN
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) December 13, 2023
“As President, I will take a holistic approach to ensure our veterans receive the care they need to live long, flourishing lives—starting during their service and continuing in the decades that follow,” he said.
In January 2024, he reiterated that he would federally legalize Schedule I drugs such as marijuana and psychedelics for military veterans with PTSD if he’s elected. His plan involves having the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provide access to the currently illegal substances as an alternative to fentanyl.
During a virtual town hall event ahead of the Iowa caucus, Ramaswamy was asked why medical cannabis hasn’t been federally legalized and took the opportunity to tout his broader drug policy plan for veterans.
He gave a somewhat contradictory response, first saying that there’s a “patchwork” of state cannabis laws under federal prohibition, and that “everything has to go through Congress—that’s a separate matter.” But then he suggested he could unilaterally amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to create a veterans-specific carve-out for Schedule I drugs.
But then there’s the other side of the candidate’s drug policy philosophy—one that calls into question the anti-drug war narrative.
Ramaswamy supports an extreme and militarized approach to the fentanyl overdose crisis, sending U.S. troops to the Southern border to “annihilate” Mexican cartels in a “shock-and-awe” campaign.
“I will deploy the U.S. military to protect our *own* border instead of someone else’s. And I will annihilate the Mexican drug cartels: that’s how you end the fentanyl crisis which kills 50x the number of Americans each year vs. the number who died on 9/11,” he said in April 2023. “I refuse to be a passive buffoon who sits in the White House simply watching it happen: we’re going to finally solve this problem.”
I will deploy the U.S. military to protect our *own* border instead of someone else’s. And I will annihilate the Mexican drug cartels: that’s how you end the fentanyl crisis which kills 50x the number of Americans each year vs. the number who died on 9/11. I refuse to be a… https://t.co/11iN741HZx
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) April 14, 2023
Ramaswamy has also called for increasing the staffing and funding of DEA, suggesting that the agency that’s been the chief government enforcer of the drug war should have additional resources to combat fentanyl trafficking.
During a domestic policy speech in September 2023, he detailed a proposal to fire about 75 percent of federal workers and shutter key agencies, but DEA would be exempt, while agents at the FBI would be transferred over to the drug agency.
Ramaswamy said that it’s important to provide that infusion of labor because DEA is “taking on the drug enforcement problems that we have in this country.” But without action to end federal prohibition of marijuana and psychedelics first, the plan could mean increased enforcement of the very laws that Ramaswamy has separately said he wants to change.
During an interview on “Club Random with Bill Maher” in August 2023, Ramaswamy previewed the plan to slash the federal workforce—especially FBI—and build up DEA, which he described as “far more effective on the frontlines of the fentanyl epidemic.” The proposal drew a skeptical reaction from Maher, who has also long decried the failures of the drug war.
“If you’re gonna get rid of an agency why don’t you get rid of that one? The DEA,” Maher said.
“We have laws in this country,” Ramaswamy replied. “So you could debate whether you like the laws or not, but I’m saying, as long as you have the laws, we’re talking about effectiveness here. And my point is the FBI is broken.”
In that same interview, the candidate reiterated his support for federal marijuana legalization, saying the current state-federal conflict on cannabis is “a farce” that allows governments to unfairly target people.
“I think we should align the federal law with the state law,” he said.
But that support for the policy reform is also coupled with a seemingly stigmatizing view about the use of cannabis, as the candidate said in May 2023 that he wants to see increased work requirements for federal social benefits, stating that the government should stop “paying people to stay home, binge TV, smoke pot, & be depressed.”
In 1996, Senator Joe Biden endorsed work requirements as a way to reduce welfare reliance. Now he refuses to do the same. Reveals how far our culture has “evolved.” Stop paying people to stay home, binge TV, smoke pot, & be depressed. Adopt work requirements for welfare & unlock… pic.twitter.com/PWA0KFPf18
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) May 23, 2023
It’s a talking point that feeds into the increasingly dated and debunked stereotype that marijuana use is inherently associated with laziness.
In June 2023 Ramaswamy also criticized a harm reduction policy in a Pennsylvania city to mitigate the opioid overdose epidemic.
The ‘safe smoking’ kits handed out in Kensington are packed with Pyrex crack pipes, metal pipe screens, and mouthpieces. We are incentivizing this drug epidemic. Stop the insanity. End America’s decay. pic.twitter.com/qCVw7Qu92i
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) June 21, 2023
In May 2023, he suggested that China is supplying Mexican drug cartels with ingredients to produce fentanyl-laced products, including “CBD gummies”—a claim with dubious expert sourcing.
China is supplying Mexican drug cartels with the ingredients to cheaply make fentanyl which they lace into other pills and even CBD gummies. This is a one-sided opium war and establishment leaders sit by and do nothing. Treat the cartels as the terrorists they are. I will use our… pic.twitter.com/G2qH5nFmdT
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) May 13, 2023
After a person questioned what he would do about the domestic drug war, Ramaswamy doubled down on the fentanyl-laced CBD gummies claim.
I’m all for addressing the demand side too & I will be rolling out policies – ones that you’ll probably like – to address that later. But my point here is that fentanyl *poisoning* is the real problem. Lacing gummies with fentanyl is closer to bioterrorism than “drug use.”
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) May 13, 2023
“I’m all for addressing the demand side too & I will be rolling out policies – ones that you’ll probably like – to address that later. But my point here is that fentanyl *poisoning* is the real problem,” he said. “Lacing gummies with fentanyl is closer to bioterrorism than ‘drug use.'”
Previous Quotes And Social Media Posts
Ramaswamy has a background as a pharmaceutical industry executive and entrepreneur, but his public comments about marijuana and psychedelics have only recently come to the fore.
That said, in June 2022, he was critical of companies that announced plans to provide workers with financial support to access abortion services if they were based in a jurisdiction where such services had been criminalized following a Supreme Court ruling that overruled long-standing protections. In his criticism, he drew a parallel to taking the same type of action to help workers access medical cannabis in legal areas if they worked in a prohibitionist state, seemingly opposing the notion.
Medical marijuana is legal in some states but not others. It’ll be interesting to see whether companies start paying for travel across state lines to access it. pic.twitter.com/EfrPOlkYf4
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) June 27, 2022
“Medical marijuana is legal in some states but not others. It’ll be interesting to see whether companies start paying for travel across state lines to access it,” he said.
Personal Experience With Marijuana
During his interview with Maher in August 2023, Ramaswamy told the host that he doesn’t drink or smoke, adding, “I try to not have too many vices.”
Marijuana Under A Ramaswamy Presidency
Ramaswamy has said that he would legalize marijuana at the federal level—a position that distinguishes him from the other GOP contenders in the running.
His support for some form of psychedelics access, particularly for therapeutic purposes and for vulnerable communities like military veterans suffering from PTSD, is another notable drug policy distinction..
That platform gives reason to assume that Ramaswamy could be an ally for the reform movement if elected president. But at the same time, while he’s commented on the bold plans, he’s also spent considerable time highlighting his proposals to use the military to combat fentanyl trafficking and to expand DEA—positions that would likely give pause to a drug war skeptic, as he’s characterized himself as being.
As such, it’s unclear what drug policy issues the candidate would prioritize if elected to the White House.