Presidential Candidates On Drugs

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 12, 2008

    Lest folks think that NORML is unfairly biased toward one political party over another, let me reiterate that NORML and the NORML Foundation are required by law to be non-partisan.

    (I state this position, again, in response to recent posts proclaiming, inaccurately, that NORML is either pro-Democrat or pro-Republican. In truth, neither of these positions are true, and in fact, NORML’s endorsement of any party, including Greens or Libertarians, would be illegal.)

    By contrast, the NORML PAC can raise funds to contribute to “pot-friendly” political officials at the local, state, or federal level. Since 2001, the NORML PAC has contributed over $37,000 to select politicians. These public officials are not selected because of their political party affiliation; they are selected because they have each made exceptional efforts to liberalize America’s antiquated and punitive marijuana laws.

    Unfortunately, none of the four major Presidential or Vice Presidential candidates are prior recipients of NORML PAC funding — nor is it likely any of them will be in the future.

    On the Democrat ticket, Presidential candidate Barack Obama has flip-flopped twice on the issue of decriminalizing marijuana (replacing arrests and jail terms with small fines) for adults. Although he has made statements supporting an end to federal interference in state medical marijuana laws, he has also expressed skepticism that cannabis has demonstrable therapeutic value, and has said that he would only favor its use under “strict” controls. As a Congressman, Obama has made little-to-no effort to advance marijuana law reform, and has championed various federal anti-drug provisions to increase drug law enforcement efforts both domestically and overseas.

    By contrast, Obama’s running mate, Delaware senior Senator Joe Biden — as noted here, here, here, and here — has a 35-year record regarding the drug war, almost all of it disgraceful. Biden’s most recent verbal support in favor of medical cannabis notwithstanding, the bottom line is that the Senator is a primary architect of the federal policies that have brought us: mandatory minimum sentencing in drug crimes, random workplace drug testing for public employees, the 100-to-1 crack versus powder cocaine sentencing ratio, the creation of the Drug Czar’s office, the RAVE Act, and America’s modern federal anti-paraphernalia laws (the statute that comedian Tommy Chong ultimately spent nine months in prison for violating). Most recently, Biden endorsed a nationwide ban on smoking, and he espoused the use of mycoherbicides such as Fusarium oxysporum — a genetically engineered fungal plant killer — in illicit crop eradication efforts.

    Predictably, the Republican candidates are no better. During his 26 years in Congress, Arizona senior Senator John McCain has consistently voted in favor of stricter drug enforcement in America and abroad, endorsed Nancy Reagan’s vapid “Just Say No” mantra, backed mandatory minimum sentences and even the death penalty for certain drug offenders, and has repeated scoffed at the notion of medical marijuana, even going so far as to turn his back on bonafide patients.

    McCain’s VP pick, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, has by far the most limited record on drug policy. Like Obama, Palin is an admitted former pot smoker. However, unlike her running mate, Palin may have some sympathy for medical cannabis patients, having served as the Governor of one of the twelve states that has a legal therapeutic cannabis program and chosen not to speak out against it.

    In short, both party’s veteran candidates (McCain and Biden) are positively awful on drug policy, while the younger generation (Obama and Palin) may offer reformers at least some minor glimmer of hope.

    Bottom line: regardless of who wins the Presidency, marijuana law reform will still be waged primarily on the state and local level — where our support and our victories — continue to grow.

    41 responses to “Presidential Candidates On Drugs”

    1. H20420 says:

      I propose we combat the “Just Say No” DARE slogan with “Just Try It”.

      I always find it ironic that ‘Drug Czar’ seems to be an acceptable term with the ONDCP although it’s a term related to Russian monarchy, and monarchs weren’t very big with freedom of thought or experimentation . It’s like they’re saying “Yeah, we control you, do something about it” directly to our faces and we just lie back and take it.

      Even with Biden’s sketchy approach on drugs I’d rather have the Obama/Biden combo than the geezer and the hot librarian.

    2. Will there be light at the end of the tunnel if the Democrats get in, we shall see. Will there be light at the end of the tunnel if the Republicans get in, I do not think so. About the only light I want to see is the flick of Bic lighter when the rest of the country follows suit of the other twelve states that have their marijuana laws changed by the people for the people. As far as I am concerned, I am tired of living in fear everytime I flick my Bic. I live in one of those states that are still under draconian laws. The govt. knows the medical values of marijuana, other wise they would not have patents on marijuana. So what is problem with the government to build more prisons for non-offenders or maybe the lawyers loss of revenue in a billion industry of representing marijuana users. Only time will tell!!!!!! At least BUSHISM will be out the door.

    3. leaving florida soon says:

      I think you guys are trying to hard to be nonpartisan Biden is far and away the biggest douchebag of all If you took McCain,Obama,and Palin added them together and multiplied by ten they wouldn’t suck as bad as Biden

      I guess as far as drug policy goes lets hope If elected McCain listens to Palin and if Obama gets the job he doesn’t give Biden the time of day or hopfully he’ll dump Biden off the ticket all together they seemed to be floating that idea the last day or so.

    4. SmoknDragon says:

      I do agree with Obama, on stricker rules for the legalization of medical marijuana. We do have the resources to “govern” the rules, ie NORML, MPP. I do think that legalizing marijuana would just be better then just legalizing all together would be better.

    5. Maggiesbrother says:

      If you vote for them you condone their actions and their hypocrisy. Do not encourage them!
      Vote Libertarian or Green.
      Do not condone immorality.

    6. Whatchange?? says:

      Obamas whole campaign has been run on the basis of change. changing Washington. Changing Government. Marijuana legalization, decriminalization, medical marijuana are issues he should be using to his benefit. These are areas where major change is needed and demanded by a good majority of Americans. 12 states have decrininalized, with massachusetts and I believe Michigan??? still to follow. Many states have medical marijuana legislation already in place. Why wont the canidates listen?? These are issues they are all still afraid to talk openly about even when the public is demanding a discussion.

      I believe its around 80% of the country now that is for medical marijuana. Obama and Palin have admitted to smoking marijuana so they themselves have experienced that it is not a sure fire way to ruin your life. I would say that they’ve both become fairly successful individuals regardless of their past “drug abuse”.

      I’ve heard some argue that the cigarette and alcohol giants are the real thing preventing these politians from discussing this issue. Will it even come up in a debate. I doubt it but i’ll be watching to see. Why can’t we all get organized and make this change? 80% for medical marijuana and we still can’t get a canidate from either major party to stand up and say that if elected they will do whatever they can to stop this so called “war on drugs”? Its a proven failure. Its obvious to anyone intelligent enough to look at the facts.

      In closing….I am well aware of all that NORML has done to progress this movement in the right direction. I agree with NORMLs mission statement and goals. In the article above there is a link to a list of Goverment officials who have recieved campaign contributions from this organization. I understand the thought process in that however I feel those funds would be better spent getting the message to the people. As it is stated, if this progress is going to continue it needs to happen at the state and local level. I want to see one nation television commercial that educates the public on the lies and the failure that has been our drug war. I want to see a “this is the goverments brain on prohibition” ad. Is there any way to make this happen. Get the message to the people on a larger scale. Use their own propaganda techniques against them. Explain the lies and twisting of the facts. Let the public know that theyre government is telling them that it needs “more testing” and then the DEA is denying the right for colleges and universities to take part in the studies they say they need.

      How can we better organize to make this change happen faster?? I’ve written my congressman. I’ve talked to my friends and family. I’ve joined the many forums and groups. What else can I do?

    7. the masked smoker says:

      well what I believe is that medicinal marijuana should be legal in states but it should be up to the state citizens. When it comes to voting the only levels of govt. voting actually wields any sort of accomplishment is in the state and local levels. we as a people don’t vote the presidents in its the Electoral College.

      But back to the legalization of marijuana. I belive that smoking pot RESPONSIBLY should be legal. and the key word is RESPONSIBLE and any form of the word.

    8. Realist says:

      I say, “Vote for Palin”. At least we can look at a pretty lady while our rights are abridged.

    9. Sam Sharp says:

      I know it may not be the ultimate solution, but I urge everyone to smoke if they want to. F— the law for long enough and it will get changed. Smoke, smoke. I think I’ll go light up right now, eh?