If you have an opportunity during this election year to attend a presidential or congressional rally for a candidate, you might take the following list of questions about drug policy with you. If you like the answers you get from these questions, put them in the mail addressed to:
1. Do you think the current federal drug budget is a properly determined division of priorities in which two thirds of the funding goes to law enforcement-related programs, and one third goes to prevention, treatment and research? If not, how would you, if you were elected, change it?
2. On February 15th our country reached an historic milestone of 2 million people behind prison bars, making us now the world's leading jailer. This confinement rate is driven in large part by drug law convictions. Do you believe that we should continue to rely so heavily on incarceration as a solution to drug problems? If not, what specific changes would you recommend to decrease the prison population?
3. Chief Justice William Rehnquist - along with other Supreme Court Justices and every federal circuit court - has called for an end to mandatory sentencing statutes. Do you agree with this majority? Will you support efforts to repeal mandatory sentencing and return true sentencing authority to judges?
4. The US General Accounting Office recently noted the rapid rise of women in prison. They showed how this was tied to prosecution of drug cases. Thus, not only are women the fastest growing segment of the US prison population, they are the least violent. In addition, two thirds of these women have children; these children often grow up without their mothers and end up in foster homes. Is incarceration of nonviolent women, particularly mothers, a policy you support? If not, what specific changes in policy would you recommend to address this problem?
5. Congress and the Clinton Administration want to give $1.6 billion in new aid to Colombia. While sold to the public in the name of fighting the drug war, this aid will be used primarily for military and law enforcement activity. Do you believe the United States should become involved militarily in the forty-year-old Colombian civil war, a bloodied country where the war on drugs has long been deadly to the people?
6. Recent surveys of high school students find that 90 % can easily acquire illegal drugs. It is easier for students to buy marijuana than beer, and easier for them to buy heroin and cocaine than prescription drugs. Do you believe the war on drugs is an effective way to control adolescent drug use? If not, what would you do differently than current policy if you were elected?
7. Current drug policies have a racially disproportionate impact on certain communities of color where arrests, prosecutions and incarceration rates are much higher then their population numbers or drug use rates would warrant. For example, only 13 % of those using illegal drugs are African American, but they constitute 35 % of those arrested for simple possession, and a staggering 74 % of those sentenced for drug possession. Moreover, African Americans and Latinos are stopped and searched on the highways at a greater rate then whites. HIV/AIDS is spreading more rapidly among black and Hispanic drug users than users who are white. Do you believe the drug war is racially unfair? If you were elected, what would you do to notice and then change this racial bias?
8. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the largest source of new AIDS cases is injection drug use; this is particularly true for cases involving women and infants. What would you do to face up to this new source of the AIDS epidemic? Would you support lifting the federal funding ban for needle exchange programs? If not, why not?
9. What is your view on medical marijuana, and do you believe the federal government should respect the public votes favoring medical marijuana in seven states and the District of Columbia? Do you think it is appropriate in any way for the federal government to threaten doctors with prosecution for discussing medical marijuana with their patients?
10. Two state governors - Gary Johnson of New Mexico and Jesse Ventura of Minnesota - have called for a national debate on controlling the drug market through regulation and taxation rather than prohibition. US Drug Czar General McCaffrey has said legalization is something that should be debated. Do you agree - and please tell us why - that some legalization should be part of the debate on how best to control dangerous drugs?
If your orgnization would like to sign-on to a letter and these questions for candidates; e-mail Keven Zeese at: firstname.lastname@example.org