Libertarian Rick Stewart campaigns for Iowa governor on ending the war on drugs

By: - July 6, 2022 10:26 am

Libertarian candidate Rick Stewart will run for Iowa governor against Republican incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds and Democrat Deidre DeJear. (Photo courtesy of Stewart's campaign)

If elected Iowa governor, libertarian candidate Rick Stewart says he plans to resolve gun violence and the mental health crisis by legalizing psychedelic therapy. 

To do so, Stewart says he would work with the Iowa Legislature to eliminate every drug law in the state. Until he garnered support, Stewart said he would issue a pardon for everyone convicted of a non-violent drug crime.

“I would work for consensus for understanding the basic facets of how we can make the state, this country and this world into the most beautiful place that it can ever be,” Stewart said.

Stewart said he would even go as far as proposing a state day of “ecstasy.” Iowans who want to participate would have access to take “safe” psychedelic drugs, Stewart said, unlike what he describes as the adulterated drugs sold on the streets today. Ecstasy is one of the street names for the drug MDMA, which according to the Drug Enforcement Administration acts as both a stimulant and psychedelic.

“If I am the governor of Iowa, I will simply declare that people who use psychedelic-assisted therapy in Iowa will not be prosecuted by the law, and I don’t give a damn if the federal government thinks there’s a problem with that or not,” Stewart said. “I will stand between the DEA and the hospital and they won’t get past me. Because that’s the definition of insanity, is to not allow insane people to get the drugs that will cure them, which is what we currently have.”

In May, Stewart paused his campaign for governor after being arrested outside the DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C. He was protesting the denial of experimental psilocybin therapy for a friend with terminally ill cancer experiencing end-of-life depression. 

Stewart said he believes the only cure for psychiatric illness is psychedelic therapy. Drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin, known as magic mushrooms or shrooms, provide a solution to mental illness as opposed to simply covering up the symptoms, according to Stewart. 

After his son encountered an acute psychotic episode, Stewart gained experience with Iowa’s mental health system, he said. With a shortage of doctors to respond to the mental health crisis, Stewart also proposes allowing psychiatric nurses to prescribe medication to patients experiencing acute psychotic episodes. 

Ending the war on drugs could reduce gun deaths in cities with high rates of violence, Stewart said. Both MDMA and psilocybin are Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.

While gun violence will never reach zero, Stewart believes psychedelic therapy could prevent future occurrences by those struggling with mental health. MDMA-assisted therapy is in phase three of a randomized study to treat severe post-traumatic stress disorder. With suicide accounting for more than half of gun deaths in 2020, Stewart said legalizing suicide is another way to reduce gun violence in the U.S. 

“Most gun deaths are suicides, I suspect many of these people would choose to end their lives in a less unpleasant way for the survivors if it were easy to do so, but laws against suicide prevent this,” he wrote on his website.

Stewart’s agenda would face a significant challenge in the current Iowa Legislature. The Republican majority has refused to consider proposals to legalize or decriminalize marijuana or even expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

Education 

This legislative session, Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed taxpayer-funded scholarships to help families pay for private school. Stewart said he would rather focus on creating the best education system by rewarding teachers. He said public school funding shouldn’t be allocated per pupil but instead should go toward the educators. Students and parents would be able to pick which teachers they think perform the best, and the best teachers would make the most money. 

“We need to educate our children, as best we can, to the maximum amount of their ability to learn and at the lowest possible cost,” Stewart said. “Because there’s no reason to waste taxpayer money, and there’s no reason to do a job if you’re not going to do it well.”

Stewart said parents know what is best for their children to learn. Therefore, they should decide who teaches their children. Under this system, Stewart hopes many teachers would make over $100,000 a year and the very best teachers could make even more. 

“Teachers that can attract more parents and more students will get paid more money,” Stewart said. “And I hope that the best teachers in Iowa get filthy rich because that’s how good a teacher is.”

Abortion

As a libertarian, Stewart views the government as the last entity to turn for protection, including on the issue of abortion. He said he believes life begins at conception and opposes any government intervention on the issue. 

“It should never be dealt with by politicians,” Stewart said. “They should neither promote it nor should they ban it. They should leave their hands off, and if abortion is the murder of a fetus or a person, then I’m not wise enough to know what to do about that. I will trust God to decide what punishment should be emitted to the people who commit that crime, and I have much more faith in God than I do in the politicians.”

Taxes 

The Iowa Legislature passed a single-rate income tax during this year’s session and eliminated the state retirement tax. Stewart said he would eliminate the income tax because it penalizes Iowans for working. Instead, he supports a sales tax to bring in state revenue.

Stewart also supports a carbon tax. Producers and manufacturers would be taxed based on their carbon emissions and pass the tax on to consumers, forcing them to pay based on consumption. Producers who emit low levels of carbon could opt out of the tax and still be rewarded through the tax on consumers. 

The tax would likely create a surplus of money for the state, Stewart said. Therefore, he would propose a carbon tax rebate to prevent wasteful government spending and reward those who limit carbon use.

“The carbon tax alone will drive down carbon production, and it will drive consumers to use less carbon,” Stewart said. “Pretty soon, we’ll be at the correct level of carbon. That’s the only way you’re ever going to do it and you can argue all you want. It’s just basic economic logic.” 

Campaign in the red

Before entering politics, Stewart served as the CEO and founder of a $200 million natural foods business. He ran for Iowa secretary of agriculture in 2018 and received 3% of the vote, losing to Republican Mike Naig. He also ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2020 against Sen. Joni Ernst and received 2.2% of the vote.

His current campaign was in the red as of the May 19 report.  He reported raising $13,452 so far this year, adding to just over $3,000 on hand. He spent $122 and had $64,541 in unpaid bills.

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Kate Kealey
Kate Kealey

Katherine Kealey is a senior majoring in journalism and political science at Iowa State University. Before interning at the Iowa Capital Dispatch, she interned at the Carroll Times Herald. She will serve as the editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily in the fall.

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