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Stewart, Libertarian candidate for governor: ‘Let people have their freedom’

By Bob Steenson, [email protected]

Libertarian candidate for Iowa governor Rick Stewart talks a lot about drugs, and why governments should just let people do what they want to do.

In a recent interview with the Press while he was traveling through north Iowa, Stewart said he had five issues that he is emphasizing as he campaigns around the state. The first is ending the war on drugs by repealing every criminal drug law in the state. Another priority is making psychedelic drugs legal for the treatment of mental health conditions.

Stewart, Libertarian candidate for governor: ‘Let people have their freedom’
Rick Stewart, 2022 Libertarian candidate for Iowa governor

“My biggest issue has always been ending the drug war. That’s the worst thing America’s ever done,” Stewart said. “The drug war has already lasted over 100 years, with no end in sight.”

Tens of millions of Americans have been imprisoned for non-violent drug crimes, he said.

“We’ve ripped them away from their families. We’ve taken their jobs away from them. We took their college scholarships away from them. We took their driver’s licenses away from them. We took away their license to work,” he said.

The problem with drugs like opioids and methamphetamine being illegal is that what’s being sold illegally is possibly not the real thing or it contains other things, and it makes some people turn to crime to be able to afford illegal drugs, he said.

“Opioids are not a dangerous thing to be addicted to. It’s actually extremely safe to be addicted to an opioid, unless you can’t get them, in which case really bad things happen,” he said. “I understand I don’t want addicts stealing my stuff. I understand that I don’t want a drug addict, just like an alcoholic, getting in a car and smashing it. But there’s a difference between ‘I’m using a drug’ versus ‘I’m hurting somebody else by using a drug.’”

Stewart said he has spent a long time educating himself about drugs, and people should have the information they need to make informed choices about what they put in their bodies.

Sugar is the worst thing people can consume, followed by tobacco and alcohol, he said, yet society has managed to learn how to live with them and expect people to take personal responsibility for their use.

“We’ve been hypnotized to think that heroin and cocaine and methamphetamine are somehow ‘hard’ drugs and marijuana is a ‘soft’ drug. Well, neither of those is true. Marijuana is not harmless. It’s also not a miracle medicine,” he said.

Stewart said his second priority this campaign is eminent domain.

“We don’t need eminent domain for private gain. I don’t care if a pipeline company wants to lease your land or buy your land and put some pipe on it. If it’s a voluntary transaction, go ahead, fine with me. But they shouldn’t be able to force you to do it by going to the state,” he said.

He said most eminent domain issues where a property owner refuses to sell or lease property for a project can be solved by either spending more money to get the property or coming up with creative ways to not need it.

His third priority is mental health and the difficulty to get mental health care because of the shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists. His first suggestion is to let psychiatric nurses prescribe psychiatric drugs.

He recounted the story of his son who had an acute crisis and the problems the family went through to get him the help he needed. “I’ve been through that ringer and I get it,” he said.

“The only thing they ever did for him was to give him a cheap generic antipsychotic. There’s no magic here,” he said, but getting to the point where someone could prescribe that was “ridiculous,” and they struggle every year to find someone who is available to renew his prescription.

His second suggestion regarding mental health care again goes back to drugs.

“We should immediately allow the most miraculous mental health medication ever discovered, which is psychedelic assisted therapy. We should allow that to be legal,” he said. “The psychedelics that are in the pipeline and on the verge of being approved are MDMA – which is ecstacy, LSD, and psilocybin mushrooms, which have been used for thousands of years.”

He said the research has been done.

“MDMA is a 65% permanent lifetime cure for PTSD. We have 5,000 to 10,000 American veterans committing suicide every year because of PTSD. They’re dying and we have the medicine that will help them, and we refuse to allow them the access to it. That’s criminal. … Psychedelic assisted therapy is truly miraculous, so let’s do it,” Stewart said.

His fourth issue is local control of local issues.

“It sounds general, but, c’mon. If the decision doesn’t have to be made in Des Moines, let’s not make it in Des Moines. Let’s let the towns and the counties do what they want to do. And it you don’t like it, move to the next town. … The Legislature likes to think that nothing is more important than what they’re thinking about. Just let the local people control it,” he said.

His fifth priority is similar to the fourth – no mandates, of either the “you can’t” or the “you must” variety, from the state.

“Let people have their freedom and make their own mistakes and quit trying to pretend that one size fits all, because it doesn’t,” he said.

Stewart, age 71, has been on the Libertarian ticket for statewide offices several times before. In 2014 he ran for U.S. Senate and was defeated by Joni Ernst. in 2018 he ran for Iowa secretary of agriculture and was beat by Mike Naig. In 2020 he ran for U.S. Senate again when Ernst was re-elected.

Stewart doesn’t say that he knows he has little chance of defeating the Republican or Democratic candidates in a statewide race, but he does say that getting the Libertarian party to major party status is important.

A party must receive at least 2% of the vote in the election for president or governor to be considered a major party in Iowa. Major party status includes the ability to hold state-run primary elections and for the party to appear as an option on voter registration forms.

Stewart, who lives in Cedar Rapids, started Frontier Natural Products as a member-owned cooperative in Norway, Iowa, to supply herbs and spices to natural food stores, turning it into a $200 million business with 300 employees. He was named Iowa Small Businessperson of the Year in 1992.

Stewart, who has a degree in accounting and economics from Coe College and an MBA from the University of Chicago, retired as CEO of the company at age 48 “because I wanted to explore the world and do other things.”

His website for his run for governor is www.rickstewart.com.

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