Where the Democratic Candidates stand on drug policy
Compiled from The Drug War Chronicle - www.stopthedrugwar.org
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (www.johnedwards2004.com) includes "fighting crime" as part of his agenda and record, but makes no direct mention of drugs or drug policy.
Rep. Richard Gephardt (www.dickgephardt2004.com) does not list crime or drugs among his key issues, but has pledged to keep up a strong defense against "manifold new dangers from global terror, [from] the recklessness of rogue dictators . . . to international crime and drug-running that rips at the very fabric of freedom."
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (www.johnkerry.com) a former prosecutor who favors "tough laws" and "an early advocate of laws that cracked down on international drug dealers and money laundering," and "We are not losing the war on drugs - we have yet to fight a war!"
Former Cleveland mayor and US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (www.kucinich.us) is the boldest critique of the drug war orthodoxy ever heard in presidential campaign circles. According to Kucinich:
"A safe, free and just America is undermined, not bolstered, by the costly and ineffective War on Drugs. While well-intentioned, this misguided policy - which emphasizes criminalization over treatment - has led to increased violent crime, misdirected resources of law enforcement and restricted Constitutional liberties."
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (www.joe2004.com) does not list drug policy or crime among his issues of concern, has been a strong, consistent supporter of the US military intervention in Colombia.
Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun's web site (www.carolforpresident.com) contains nothing about her positions on drug policy or crime issues. Moseley-Braun did write to a constituent in 1994 that she supported decriminalizing marijuana and wrote in Parade magazine in 1996 she suggested "decriminalizing all but wholesale distribution" of all drugs. But she never acted on those words.
Rev. Al Sharpton (www.sharptonexplore2004.com) comes out of a background of controversial black issues in New York state. As an activist he has been an increasingly fervent critic of the New York Rockefeller laws, police abuses related to the war on drugs, and mandatory minimum sentences. Sharpton also lent support to the 2000 Millennium Marijuana March.
Late-comer General Wesley Clark (www.clark04.com) is noticeably silent on drug policy and criminal justice issues, but has this to say about civil liberties on his web site:
"Last month, a Justice Department report admitted that the John Ashcroft has actually expanded the substantial reach of the [PATRIOT] Act, using it to snoop in secrecy for evidence of crimes that have nothing to do with terrorism."
"Now Ashcroft is proposing the PROTECT Act. Among other curtailments, the proposed bill . . . instructs prosecutors to report judges that order departures -- creating the very real possibility that judges will be put on a DOJ blacklist."
In the September 2003 issue of The Nation Magazine, journalist Matt Taibbi questioned Vermont Governor Howard Dean (www.deanforamerica.com) about drug policy.
In the feature article, titled Dean-a-Palooza, Dean was asked, "Do you believe nonviolent drug offenders should go to jail?"
"No," he said bluntly.
"That's it - no?" Taibbi said.
"Well," he said, "if you're talking about someone who is selling heroin in a school zone, sure, that's probably something you should go to jail for. But a guy who just has a problem, or gets busted a few times, no, he shouldn't go to jail. It's a medical issue."
"So how would you address the issue as President?" Taibbi continued. "Most of the drug laws aren't federal laws."
"Well, that's true,"
Dean answered. "We'd probably try block grants to give states
incentives to finding alternatives to prison."
Question: How do we get the presidential candidates to condemn the injustice of the war on drugs and secure a commitment in their campaign 'platforms' that supports enforcement review, sentencing reform and release of drug war prisoners?
Without substantial public support and outcry leading the way, few political candidates will take on an issue involving relief for prisoners as a moral imperative. Therefore, it's heartening early in the campaign to begin hearing open discussion of our concerns by two Democratic candidates, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Gov. Howard Dean. Greens and Libertarians commonly support reform.
Republicans and Independents will address these issues if a popular candidate commits to genuine concern about our issues during campaigning. Then comes Party Conventions, and that is where platforms are honed and positions finalized. Let's plan now to see our issue of drug war injustice become prominent at upcoming Conventions.
To become involved in this important democratic process, visit the campaign offices of candidates today. Attend public meetings and share your concerns. You'll be proud to learn and participate in these important steps toward choosing our next President and other public officials.
Don't forget to take some copies of the Petition for Relief from Drug War Injustice to meetings you attend. Share copies, and collect signatures. A Petition has been inserted in this newpaper; you can also find copies at www.november.org.