Ron DeSantis’s terrible take on marijuana legalization

Which is it, Governor DeSantis: Do you want people to have ‘medical freedom’ and ‘bodily autonomy’—or not? 

Ron DeSantis touts himself as Florida’s “freedom governor.” And he did keep his state much freer than most others during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, apparently, DeSantis’s support for individual freedom is rather selective—and doesn’t apply to marijuana.

The prominent Republican just came out swinging against the decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level. When asked about his position at a recent event, DeSantis said he wouldn’t support such a change, citing the hazards facing youth who use marijuana and the supposed threat of illicit marijuana products that are laced with toxic substances such as fentanyl.

“I think that we have too many people using drugs in this country right now,” he concluded. “I think it hurts our workforce readiness. I think it hurts people’s ability to prosper in life.”

There are so many problems with this that it’s hard to know where to start.

For one, you can’t say you’re all about individual freedom and liberty but also argue that people should face criminal penalties for choosing to smoke marijuana. DeSantis rejects the nanny state when it comes to COVID authoritarianism, but evidently supports it when it comes to preventing adults from using a substance he thinks is bad for them.

Which is it, Governor DeSantis: Do you want people to have “medical freedom” and “bodily autonomy”—or not?

Secondly, it’s really bizarre that DeSantis cites contamination issues as a reason he’s against legal marijuana. While cases of marijuana products laced with fentanyl are rare, when contamination issues do happen, they’re almost exclusively found in the black market. The dispensary down the street doesn’t accidentally sell people contaminated products. (And, if it did, it’d get sued and put out of business). Your local dealer, however, may well not know exactly what it is he’s selling you.

This hints at another contradiction. DeSantis paints himself as “tough on crime,” so much so that he now opposes even common-sense, moderate, smart-on-crime legislation like the First Step Act. But keeping marijuana illegal is a boon to criminals and gangs.

It gives them a major source of revenue and income to finance their illegal activities, whereas a legal market—one that isn’t throttled by high taxes—would largely put dealers out of business and instead funnel that income to lawful American business owners. Isn’t that a better solution if you want to reduce crime?

DeSantis’s final point about workforce readiness isn’t very strong, either. It’s certainly true that sometimes excessive marijuana use leaves people, including laborers, lacking in motivation. But that’s true under the status quo where most people who would smoke if weed was legal still do but just buy it illegally. And the much bigger threat to “workforce readiness” and “people’s ability to prosper in life” is the War on Drugs. After all, people aren’t much use to the workforce when they’re behind bars for victimless crimes, and families don’t exactly “prosper” when fathers are absent in the home over non-violent drug charges. 

DeSantis’s position on this key issue is woefully out of touch. The governor needs to wake up and realize how inconsistent this terrible take on marijuana legalization is with the message he supposedly stands for.

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Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo is a libertarian-conservative journalist and co-founder of Based Politics. His work has been cited by top lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Pat Toomey, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, Congressman Thomas Massie, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, as well as by prominent media personalities such as Jordan Peterson, Sean Hannity, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin. Brad has also testified before the US Senate, appeared on Fox News and Fox Business, and written for publications such as USA Today, National Review, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. He hosts the Breaking Boundaries podcast and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.