Where are the Democratic Candidates on the Drug War?

Arianna Huffington has a good post up today asking why the Democratic contenders for President aren't discussing the second war, the war on drugs?

...a quick search of the top Democratic hopefuls' websites reveals that not one of them -- not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not John Edwards, not Joe Biden, not Chris Dodd, not Bill Richardson -- even mentions the drug war, let alone offers any solutions.

The silence coming from Clinton and Obama is particularly deafening.

So, let's look to the past. John Edwards put forth this position in 2004.

He also would have us shrink our bloated prison population and return its present members more successfully to society by better distinguishing non-violent drug crimes from other offenses; restoring abandoned treatment and training options; and re-enfranchising those who have done their time.

Yet, he also said:

.... he would not change marijuana laws, and he favors the Justice Department's arresting patients and caregivers who defy federal law.

Hillary addressed the war on drugs in her 2000 Senate campaign:


Q: What is your approach to the “Drug War”?

CLINTON: I have spoken out on my belief that we should have drug courts that would serve as alternatives to the traditional criminal justice system for low-level offenders. If the person comes before the court, agrees to stay clean, is subjected to drug tests once a week, they are diverted from the criminal justice system. We need more treatment. It is unfair to urge people to get rid of their addiction and not have the treatment facilities when people finally makes up their minds to get treatment.

True, mandatory minumum drug offenses were greatly expanded during Bill Clinton's presidency, but that's not her fault. And as I noted after our blogger meeting with Clinton, he's softened considerably since his presidency on drug offenses and mandatory minumums

Bill Richardson is great on medical marijuana, but not on the drug war. In the past, while he has urged drug courts and treatment instead of prison, he also has urged mandatory jail sentences for selling illegal drugs. (Nov 1996)

Arianna is right to raise this issue. Each candidate should have their criminal justice views, including on the drug war, prominently displayed on their websites.

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    I believe you are wrong on Richardson (none / 0) (#1)
    by lilybart on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 02:38:19 PM EST
    He has been pushing the Medical Marijuana bill that just passed on New Mexico, since 2002 and I do believe he is on the record about NOT supporting the so-called war on drugs as it stands now.

    But if you just want to reprint something from somewhere else and call it done, fine.

    And for the record, you are no longer a "single issue blog" since BTD has taken it over for Iraq. Won't be able to vote for you again. Sad, because it is very interesting to hear real lawyers discuss the issues of the day and now they effect law and how the law works.

    I have learned a lot and you are entitled to post whaever you want, it is your blog.

    Richardson on Drugs (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:33:51 PM EST
    Lillybart, I noted and have praised Richardson for his stance on medical marijuna many times here.  However, to suggest he is a progressive on the war on drugs or criminal justice issues is not supported by his past record. If you follow the links to the 1996 Congressional National Political Awareness Test Nov 1, 1996, you will find quotes from him where he stated,

    We're cracking down on illegal drug labs - these dangerous, makeshift factories are popping up almost daily in neighborhoods across our state. In addition to the deadly product they produce, the labs are a danger to nearby residents, and anyone in the house, including children. Our State Police are targeting these illegal drug labs and will throw the book at anyone making drugs, and raise the penalties for those doing so with children present.

    And his positions were:

    Mandatory jail sentences for selling illegal drugs

        * Indicate which principles you support concerning illegal drugs. Increase penalties for selling illegal drugs.
        * Impose mandatory jail sentences for selling illegal drugs.
        * Impose capital punishment for convicted international drug traffickers.
        * Increase funding of federally-sponsored drug education and drug treatment programs.

    The war on drugs is not just about drug users and drug treatment for non-violent offenders. It's also about the disparate penalties for crack and powder, mandatory minimum sentences and the racial disparity in drug sentences.

    On other criminal justice issues, Richardson has not shown a progressive side.

       *  Toughened DWI and sex offender laws. (Jan 2004)
        * Domestic violence incidents start with drinking. (Jan 2004)
        * Mandatory jail time, especially for repeat offenders. (Oct 2002)
        * Supports death penalty: zero tolerance for heinous crimes. (Oct 2002)
        * Impose "truth in sentencing" for violent criminals. (Nov 1996)
        * Voted NO on maintaining right of habeus corpus in Death Penalty Appeals. (Mar 1996)
        * Voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder. (Feb 1995)
        * Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment. (Apr 1994)

    As for Big Tent, I'm grateful he is posting here. I've also written extensively on Iraq since the war began, check the War in Iraq archive link.  It is, in my opinion, a crime.

    The legal posts have not diminished here. We just write a lot. Sometimes you need to scroll down.


    They still won't listen, out of fear. (none / 0) (#2)
    by SeeEmDee on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 02:47:35 PM EST
    And as I noted after our blogger meeting with Clinton, he's softened considerably since his presidency on drug offenses and mandatory minumums

    I'm sure that's of great comfort to all those whose lives have been destroyed, not by the drugs, but by the drug laws. What is of particular note is that during the Clinton Presidency the numbers of cannabis smokers being arrested rose dramatically, from 250K to over 700K. When apprised of this on his exit from the White House, he disingenuously claimed in a Rollong Stone interview that he thought that cannabis had been decriminalized in most of the US.

    In large part, the reason for the 2000 Election turning out the way it did - and much of what we have experienced as a nation since then - was because of drug law offences causing voter disenfranchisement in key States such as Florida. Given that those most negatively affected by the drug laws are minorities, the conclusion can't be any more obvious than the nose on your face. But the Dems would deny that, in this instance, they have a nose at all. Just as they have for years, by kow-towing to an exceedingly small group of very loud self-appointed morals proctors who see someone smoking a weed and fear the downfall of Western Civilization. The past two decades have seen the spectacle of Dems wimpishly trying to out-tough their Republican rivals on making drug laws increasingly punitive to avoid being slapped with the epithet of 'soft on crime'.

    If Dems want to show how tough they really are, let's see some of them fabricate spines and stand up to that vocal authoritarian minority and tell them to bugger off, and change these stupid laws. Otherwise, they will always face the prospect of never having a comfortable margin in elections, as their natural allies will be locked out of the political process by Dem unwillingness to work on changing those laws. And they'll deserve having to sweat each election because of that.

    Biden (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:04:51 PM EST
    Authored, or co-sponsored with Orrin Hatch, most of the cockamamie DrugWar legislation of the last quarter century.

    Notable, the RAVE Act, which, in his version,would have made a 20 year felony of promoting or housing a musical event at which any attendee distributed or used a Controlled Substance.

    2000 Methamphetamine Anti-proliferation Act, would have made a 10 year felony of distributing information which could be used to manufacture or use a Controlled Substance. This would have criminalised publication of Jefferson's diaries, with over 1,000 pages on hemp farming.

    Both bills were cleaned up in House Judiciary, with Rep, Baldwin taking the lead.


    In Biden's case (none / 0) (#5)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:12:42 PM EST
    remaining silent on the DrugWar is a big improvement. Does he feel a breeze?

    Obama in Illinois Senate (none / 0) (#4)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:09:47 PM EST
    Dug through the poor interface a couple years ago, found 3 items of interest.

    1. Voted for an Industrial Hemp bill in 2000.

    2. Authored legislation to criminalize ephedra after some bseball player ODed.

    3. Bill to allow police to pull over cars solely for seatbelt violations. He fought for, and won, an amendment keeping these stops from being the starting point for prying consent to searches.

    New from Richardson (none / 0) (#6)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:29:45 PM EST
    New Mexico Bars Drug Charge When Overdose Is Reported (NYT)

    Struggling with an epidemic of drug fatalities, New Mexico has enacted a groundbreaking law providing immunity from prosecution for people who come forward to help drug users suffering overdoses.

    The act, signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Bill Richardson, prevents the authorities from prosecuting on the basis of evidence "gained as a result of the seeking of medical assistance."

    It also protects drug users themselves from prosecution if the process of seeking help for an overdose provides the only evidence against them.

    It's not about drugs (none / 0) (#8)
    by TomK on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 04:00:00 PM EST
    It's about putting human beings in cages for plants.

    Let's stop doing that.

    Damn right... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 04:02:50 PM EST
    it has nothing to do with drugs, it is an issue of freedom.

    I only know of one candidate for '08 with a sensible drug policy platform...and his name is Steve Kubby.  Check him out...he has already won my vote.  I'm in love with his whole platform...but especially his drug policy.


    What about Kucinich? (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 04:06:14 PM EST
    His platform in 2004 was great.

    I like him.... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 05:41:46 PM EST
    but must ask the question, why is he a democrat?  

    From my view, his platform doesn't jive with the party platform.  If by some miracle he got nominated, the party would get to him.


    Plain and simple.... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 04:05:18 PM EST
    the Democratic party is a party of prohibition, same as the Republican party.

    Freedom doesn't have any friends in the 2 party system.

    It's just one more reason (none / 0) (#12)
    by Che's Lounge on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 04:24:49 PM EST
    why progressives should support Kucinich more.

    What the candidates have to say about drugs will (none / 0) (#15)
    by JSN on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:04:05 AM EST
    be reduced to a few sentences or words  and the drug issue is too complicated for that to be sufficient.

    My research on drug issues indicates there is no set of facts about drugs that all sides agree are true. Many of the younger persons who abuse drugs also abuse alcohol which complicates treatment. Mental illness is a further complication and a person who is addicted to drugs may give a false positive result when screened for mental illness.

    If we had a set of validated facts about drugs we would have a better chance of dealing with the problem in a sensible manner.

    Legalize marijuana. (none / 0) (#16)
    by kindness on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 10:09:55 AM EST
    I know it isn't politically popular but legalize it and treat it just like alcohol.

    If it was just marijuana it could happen but (none / 0) (#17)
    by JSN on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 10:35:19 AM EST
    if more dangerous drugs are included the political support will evaporate.