Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)—who previously served as the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official and in Congress—is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. At each stage of his career, Hutchinson has proudly and unyieldingly embraced the war on drugs and opposed marijuana legalization.
Of particular concern for drug policy reformers is Hutchinson’s past record of enforcing federal prohibition in legal states and proactively campaigning against legalization.
At a time when drug policy reform is becoming increasingly bipartisan, the candidate’s hardline positions on the issue make him stand out even compared to other GOP presidential hopefuls. That includes former President Donald Trump, who announced that he’d run again late last year, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), who entered the race in February.
While Hutchinson did use executive authority to grant pardons to people with certain drug convictions as governor—and he’s expressed interest for modest proposals like expanding treatment resources in prisons and eliminating the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine—his record and comments paint a clear and convincing picture of a decades-long drug warrior who would be unlikely to evolve meaningfully on the issue of cannabis legalization if elected.
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