Three of four third party presidential candidates used a Tuesday night debate to come out in favor of marijuana legalization and to criticize drug prohibition in general. Neither the topic of marijuana legalization nor the larger topic of the war on drugs was mentioned in the three separate debates between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Unlike the major party presidential debates, which were carried live by multiple mainstream media outlets, the debate sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation suffered a virtually media blackout in the US, but was broadcast by Russia-based RT TV and Al Jazeera News.
"We don't need to just legalize marijuana in this country, we need to end drug prohibition just as we did alcohol Prohibition, and treat drug use and abuse as a public health and educational issue and get it completely out of the criminal justice system," said former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, presidential candidate for the Justice Party.
"I'm not for legalizing drugs. If you want that, vote for one of them. Don’t vote for me," said independent candidate Virgil Goode, a former Virginia Republican congressman.
Goode added that federal funding for the war on drugs should be reduced and that enforcement should primarily be a state issue. He then went on to suggest other areas of federal funding that he would like to see reduced, leaving moderator Larry King to remind him to stick to the topic at hand.
"We're on drugs. We're on drugs," King said.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson followed Goode, and there were no surprises from the long-time advocate of legalization.
"Let's legalize marijuana now -- and right now in this country, we are on a tipping point on this issue," he said to enthusiastic cheers. He added that he is not "advocating drug use," but rather acknowledging that it is an "issue that belongs with families, not in the criminal justice system."
"I am not a hypocrite on this issue," Johnson said. "I have drank alcohol, I have smoked marijuana… In no category is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol. And yet we are arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country on drug-related crime."
Last up was Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who drew on her career as a doctor to challenge the war on drugs.
"Marijuana is a substance that is dangerous because it’s illegal," Stein said. "It's not illegal on account of being dangerous, because it's not dangerous at all."
The Free and Equal Election Foundation will hold another debate on October 30. It asked viewers to rank the four candidates in order of preference, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the final debate, but no results have been announced yet.
(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)