Illegal Drugs, Race and the 2016 Elections

Illegal drug use in the U.S. is reaching epidemic levels. In 2013, an estimated 25 million Americans were illicit drug users, about 9.4 percent of the population aged 12 or older; this is up from the 2002-09 rate of 7.9 percent. The drugs used included marijuana/hashish, cocaine/crack, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants and prescription-type psychotherapeutics. Among whites, illicit drug use increased to 9.5 percent from 8.5 percent in less then a decade.

Republican candidates

A week or so after Nancy Reagan’s death, some of the Republican candidates have moved away her call to “Just Say No!”

According to information from Mundo Electoral, these are the positions of the three republican candidates:

* Ted Cruz (Senator, TX) — he favors harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

“When it comes to a question of legalizing marijuana, I don’t support legalizing marijuana.  If it were on the ballot in the state of Texas, I would vote no. But I also believe that’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination…I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision, and one of the benefits of it, you know, using [Supreme Court Justice Louis] Brandeis’ terms of laboratories of democracy, is we can now watch and see what happens in Colorado and Washington State.”

* John Kasich (governor, OH) – he opposes the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, but considers it a states’ rights issue.

“If I happened to be president, I would lead a significant campaign down at the grassroots level to stomp these drugs out of our country.”

* Donald Trump (tycoon, NY) – supports legalization of medical marijuana, but opposes legalization for recreational purposes.

“I say it’s bad.  … Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think [recreational marijuana] it’s bad. And I feel strongly about that.”  He also supports state’s rights to decide: “If they vote for it, they vote for it. But they’ve got a lot of problems going on right now, in Colorado. Some big problems.  But I think medical marijuana, 100 percent.”

Democratic candidates

The two Democratic candidates reflect a more nuanced stand on illegal drugs, each calling for a greater emphasis on prevention, treatment and recovery as well as revision of criminal prosecution.  The following quotes are from their respective websites.

* Hillary Clinton (former Sec. of State, NY) – has supported use of medical marijuana and for states to regulate recreational use.

“I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.”

“I think that we have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today.”

* Bernie Sanders (Senator, VT) – has taken the most progressive stand on illegal drugs, calling for nonviolent drug offenders to receive treatment instead of incarceration.  He support medical use of marijuana and more study of Colorado’s recreational use of marijuana.  With regard to growing the heroin and opioid epidemic, he’s called for “preventative measures to increase education and rehabilitation in order to combat this epidemic.”

“Bernie supports the medical use of marijuana and the rights of states to determine its legality. He co-sponsored the States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act in 2001.”

“Vermont voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and I support that.”

The prison-industrial complex has proven to be a failure to address either drug trafficking and drug use. It’s also proven to be unaffordable public expense that accomplished very little – other than enriching a handful of state bureaucrats and private corporations. One can only hope the American electorate will act accordingly in the November elections.

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