Former South Carolina Governor and 2024 GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley is facing criticism for her renewed endorsement of a “state-by-state” approach to marijuana legalization, a stance considered by many in the cannabis community as regressive. Haley emphasized this position during a recent town hall event in Iowa, just days ahead of the state caucus.
Responding to a question about her presidential stance on federal legalization of cannabis, Haley asserted, “In South Carolina, I did for medicinal cannabis, but I think it's a state-by-state issue. I think that's something that needs to be handled close to the people, and so I think all the states should be able to decide on that.”
This viewpoint is met with skepticism among cannabis supporters who argue that a state-by-state strategy perpetuates federal criminalization, contributing to stigma, potential criminal charges, workplace discrimination, and the persistence of the black market. Critics contend that such an approach hinders progress by limiting funding for vital research on cannabis, impeding the potential benefits it may offer.
Haley's claim of legalizing medical marijuana in South Carolina was noted during the town hall, but concerns arise as the state's enacted law remains highly restrictive, allowing only low-THC cannabis extracts for specific patients with a doctor's recommendation.
While advocating for a state-centric approach aligns Haley with other top GOP contenders like former President Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the growing consensus among cannabis advocates is that a federal overhaul is necessary to address the broader societal implications associated with marijuana prohibition. Despite ongoing discussions, it's essential to note that Haley's limited cannabis background and her recent reiteration of a state-focused strategy may draw further scrutiny as the presidential race unfolds.