Democratic presidential challenger Robert F. Kennedy Jr. called Sunday for the federal legalization of marijuana, arguing that states should be allowed to decide their own pot laws without federal interference.
Politicians have taken steps toward legalization in recent years, though even under President Barack Obama — an admitted former marijuana enthusiast — federal law considered pot illegal, creating tension with states.
Kennedy tweeted Sunday in response to a statement by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is running for the Republican nomination, that he would not decriminalize marijuana at the federal level if elected president.
DeSantis' opposition to marijuana decriminalization is wrong. I will decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. Current situation with contradictory state + federal laws is absurd. States should be able to decide without federal interference. #Kennedy24https://t.co/GtFZRJwCAa
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) June 25, 2023
President Donald Trump, who leads Republican contenders as he seeks a return to the White House, declined to legalize marijuana when he was in office. President Joe Biden has likewise stopped short of legalization.
Critics of state decriminalization policies point to increases in social malaise in some of the states that have legalized marijuana, and the near-ubiquitous smell of pot smoke in cities like Los Angeles and New York City.
Proponents argue that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, that it is not associated with violent crime, and that banning it has led to over-incarceration of small-scale dealers and users, as well as state-federal conflicts.
The issue is one that has flummoxed conservatives in particular, who usually champion states’ ability to set their own policies, but also back tough-0n-crime policies, believing marijuana is associated with other crimes.
Kennedy is challenging incumbent president Biden, repeating an effort by his uncle, Ted Kennedy, against then-President Jimmy Carter, and his father, Robert F. Kennedy Sr., against then-President Lyndon Johnson.