Wayback Machine

Donald Trump: Legalize ALL the Drugs

At least, that’s what the currently anti-pot Republican front-runner used to say.

08.03.15 5:45 PM ET

Future American President Donald J. Trump began his controversy-courting, Senator-doxxing presidential run, in part, by railing against the narcotics, crime, and rape that Mexico has apparently been sending our way.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said—famously so—at his campaign launch in June. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

In his incarnation as current Republican presidential front-runner, Trump is in no way a fan of illegal drugs. He’s claimed to have never tried controlled substances “of any kind.” Last June, he said that he opposes pot legalization. “I feel strongly about that,” he told Sean Hannity.

Today’s Donald Trump sounds like your average drug warrior. But it wasn’t too long ago that the real-estate mogul/reality-TV star publicly supported the legalization of drugs in the United States—and called out politicians for not having the courage to end the disastrous war on drugs.

During a luncheon hosted by the Miami Herald in April 1990, Trump slammed U.S. drug enforcement policy as “a joke,” and argued that tax dollars from a legalized, regulated narcotics industry could be spent on programs educating Americans about the dangers of drugs and addiction.

“We’re losing badly the war on drugs,” he said, rightly so, to the crowd of 700 people. “You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”

Trump was inspired to weigh in on the drug war partly due to the fact that “South Florida has such a huge problem with drugs,” he said. During the Miami Herald luncheon, he blamed America’s drug problems on politicians who “don’t have any guts” to address the issue.

The reform-minded Trump of decades past is a far more attractive figure than his current incarnation, at least in the eyes of the pro-legalization advocates of today.

“Well, I certainly think he had it right in 1990, and what he said then actually seemed to understand the situation,” David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, told The Daily Beast. “My sense is that looking for consistent philosophy or even policies in Donald Trump’s statements is a pretty fruitless exercise.”

Boaz also pointed out that Trump recently voiced his support for medical marijuana, and that when asked about Colorado, the 2016 GOP contender essentially said that states should be able to decide on legalizing recreational weed. “That actually puts him on the liberal wing of Republican presidential candidates in terms of drug policy,” Boaz continued.

“I’m much more surprised that [Trump] ever got it right than I am that he’s getting it wrong now,” Matt Welch, editor in chief of Reason magazine, wrote in an email. “Probably goes to show that if you spend decades just mindlessly and confidently blurting out whatever comes to mind, you’ll eventually hit on the right answer. Though the fact that even Donald freaking Trump has more history of being right on the Drug War than Hillary Clinton should be deeply embarrassing for America.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment regarding what led to Trump’s change of heart. But early ’90s-era The Donald certainly was passionate about causing a stir over the legalization question.

“What I’d like to do maybe by bringing it up is cause enough controversy that you get into a dialogue on the issue of drugs so people will start to realize that this is the only answer; there is no other answer,” he said 25 years ago.

Somebody should tell present-day Donald Trump.