The campaign season has been filled with headlines and soundbites regarding inappropriate handling of emails and offensive characterizations of minorities. But what about the issues? What do these candidates actually plan to do? Or at least, how might their personal views be reflected in their proposed policies? One issue in which those personal views could have a major impact is the candidates’ views on drug legislation.
With the presidential election drawing near and America in the grips of an opioid addiction epidemic, understanding the candidates’ views on drug laws and the enforcement thereof grows more important than ever. And, as would be expected, the candidates differ the most in regards to how they feel the law should handle marijuana. In alphabetical order:
Hillary Clinton – Democratic Party
Hillary Clinton’s views on America’s drug policy have changed over the years. In 2011 she said legalizing drugs was a bad idea because, “There is just too much money in it.” Many saw this statement as a clear indication she was out of touch in regards to understanding how drugs being illegal can contribute to how much money they can generate.
More recently, in 2015, Clinton said she would support a change in the classification of marijuana. Currently it is a Schedule I controlled substance. This means, as far as the federal government is concerned, it has no medical use. This makes obtaining research grants difficult. Changing marijuana to a Schedule II controlled substance would lower restrictions, allowing more research opportunities.
In 2016, Clinton said she supports the use of medical marijuana. She also said she will support the decisions of the states that decide to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Gary Johnson – Libertarian Party
Gary Johnson openly admits to using marijuana as recently as March 2016. He supports legalizing marijuana on a federal level. This includes removing it from the controlled substances list and regulating it for medical use. He also supports decriminalizing other drugs and reallocating the funds spent on enforcing current drug laws to programs aimed at reducing the harm associated with drug abuse.
Johnson was formerly the CEO of medical marijuana business before running for president. Citing the fact that over 100 million Americans have used marijuana, Johnson said too many parts of people’s private lives have been criminalized by politicians and the War on Drugs has failed.
Johnson likens current marijuana restrictions to the Prohibition era of the 1920s. He says, “Our real focus should be on reducing death, disease, crime and corruption. These problems are all related to drug prohibition, not drug use.”
Jill Stein – Green Party
Dr. Jill Stein was a medical doctor until she retired in 2005. As the presidential candidate for the aptly named Green Party, Stein’s views in regards to drug legislation stem from her experience as a health profession. She believes substance abuse should be treated as a health issue, not as a crime. Along with ending the War on Drugs, Stein would like to free all nonviolent drug offenders and get them into rehabilitation centers instead of detention centers. She also calls the War on Drugs racist.
Stein says marijuana is safer than tobacco and alcohol. Much like Johnson, Stein believes the illegality of marijuana is the only reason it’s dangerous and that by legalizing it, we could eliminate that danger. She supports legalizing marijuana.
As for other drugs, Stein suggests taking a scientific approach to determining the dangers associated with each drug and regulating them accordingly.
Donald Trump – Republican Party
According to several statements made by Donald Trump, he does not drink, smoke, or use any other types of drugs. His views about drug policies seem to vary greatly depending on the audience he’s addressing.
In 1990, Trump suggested legalizing all drugs and using the tax money made from their sales to fund public education about the dangers of drug use. He told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “We’re losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”
In 2012 Trump changed his stance. He supports the use of marijuana for medical purposes and stated he thinks marijuana legalization should be a state-by-state issue.
At a conference in 2015, Trump responded to a question about the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, “I say it’s bad.” When asked if legalization is a states’ rights issue, Trump said, “If they vote for it, they vote for it, but, you know, they have got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado. Some big problems.”
Later that year, Trump said medical marijuana “should happen,” and recreational legalization should be left up to the states. He also sited studying the legalization in Colorado to “see what’s happening.”
This election, be sure to consider your candidate’s view on drug legislation. Substance abuse is a serious issue. Addiction and overdose occur every day. Substance abuse kills more people each year than auto accidents or guns, yet it receives far fewer headlines than gun control issues. When candidates actually do talk about drug issues, it usually has something to do with marijuana. While the differences among the candidates’ opinions on drug legislation may be most easily seen in their views on marijuana, the scope is larger than that. Make sure you’re voting for a candidate whose overall philosophy on drugs fits with the way you see the world.
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