Gore Drug Use Question Leads to More Questions 1/28/00

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In the week since DRCNet's special report on allegations of extensive drug use contained in an upcoming Al Gore biography by Newsweek reporter Bill Turque, further information has surfaced in the media, and non-denial denials have been issued by the Gore campaign. Most significant of all, at least in the eyes of drug policy reformers, were the statements of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) who, inadvertently perhaps, pointed out the "dangerous hypocrisy" that is the essence of the ongoing saga.

On Saturday (1/22), Salon magazine followed DRCNet's special report and interview with long-time Gore friend John Warnecke with an interview of its own (available online at http://www.salon.com/politics2000/feature/2000/01/22/gore/). In it, Warnecke expanded on his explanation of the pressure he was under to hide the truth of his relationship with Gore, and Gore's drug use, when the issue surfaced during the '88 campaign.

The New York Times, while downplaying to story (a short article by Alex Kuczynski appeared on page c11 in the January 24 edition), did confirm that the excerpt had indeed been scheduled to run but was pulled at the last minute by chairman and editor-in-chief Richard M. Smith. A spokesperson for Newsweek told The Times that the decision had nothing to do with the political schedule, but declined to discuss the magazine's editorial process.

The Vice President, for his part, refused to answer questions about his relationship with Warnecke. When asked about the allegations of long-term, regular drug use, Gore would only answer that he had used marijuana, but "not to that extent," while refusing to discuss specifics.

But despite significant media attention this week, the only government official to touch upon the disconnect between the drug use of political leaders and the punitive drug policies that they often espouse was Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

On Monday, Kerry was asked by reporters to explain why he thought that questions surrounding George Bush regarding whether or not he had used cocaine were more substantively relevant than Gore's use of marijuana. Kerry, noting that Al Gore had already admitted his use of marijuana, said:

"(H)e (Gore) said 'I used it.' So that's not an issue... And I don't think Al Gore intends, you know, to make prior use an issue of other people, except to the degree that it affects public policy."

Pressed later on the question of the Bush cocaine rumors, Kerry laid out his thinking on why Bush's drug use, if substantiated, is indeed an important issue for voters to consider:

"The issue about George Bush is not the fact that he may have used it, said Kerry. "The issue about George Bush is, how can you, if you have (used cocaine), have a position that is so at odds in terms of being a governor where you send a lot of other people who may have done the same thing you do to jail. That's the issue. It's not a question of whether he used it or when he used it, it's a question of what his policy is today and whether that's hypocritical and dangerous."

The Week Online spoke with Kerry Spokesman David Wade, who reiterated the Senator's position.

"The Vice President has long admitted that he has used marijuana," said Wade. "Governor Bush, on the other hand, will say only that when he was young and irresponsible, he was young and irresponsible. But when Bush has had the opportunity to score political points in Texas by promulgating tough, extremely punitive new laws against drug users, he has been happy to do so."

Such analysis, however, is far from exculpatory of the Vice President. Under the Clinton-Gore administration, marijuana arrests increased from fewer than 350,000 in 1992 to more than 650,000 in 1998, 88% of which were for simple possession, according to the FBI's annual Crime in the United States report.

On December 30, 1996, in the wake of California's passage of a medical marijuana initiative, the Clinton administration held a press conference to announce that they would aggressively prosecute doctors who so much as discussed medicinal marijuana with patients -- despite the fact that Vice President Gore recently admitted that his sister tried marijuana for relief of the pain and nausea associated with cancer.

Further, in October of 1998, the Clinton administration signed the Higher Education Act of 1998. That act contained a provision that will automatically delay or deny all eligibility for federal student aid for any student for any drug conviction. (Visit http://www.u-net.org for further information.) The provision will go into effect on July 1, 2000 and is likely to adversely impact educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of poor and working-class students. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has since introduced H.R. 1053, which would overturn the provision and return discretion on financial aid eligibility to the hands of sentencing judges.

And on February 7, 1999, the Vice President himself presented the administration's newest "National Drug Strategy" at a Washington press conference. At the event, Gore spoke about opportunities for young people as being key to the prevention of drug abuse. Nevertheless, the strategy, in line with its previous incarnations, earmarked approximately two-thirds of the $18 billion federal anti-drug budget for enforcement and interdiction.

Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) told The Week Online that the issue of hypocrisy on drug policy is an important one.

"Given that many of our elected leaders have admitted to their own past drug use, it behooves us to examine this issue. It is certainly hypocritical, if not morally reprehensible, when our elected officials actively support the wholesale arrest and incarceration of others who engage in the same behavior for which they themselves ask absolution."

DRCNet's Gore report is available online at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/gore.html.

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Issue #123, 1/28/00 Gore Drug Use Question Leads to More Questions | San Francisco Approves Plan to Issue ID Cards to Medical Cannabis Users -- Buyer's Club Seeks Business License | Britain: Shelter Workers Sentenced to Prison for Refusing to Inform on Clients | UK Police Report: Legalizing Drugs is Obvious Choice | Michigan Initiative Effort to Rely on Volunteers, Enthusiasm | Court Strikes Down Cincinnati Ban | Regaining the Vote: Sentencing Project Report Details State and Federal Activities | AlertS: Legislative Action in Maryland and Virginia | Anderson and Boje Cases Seeking Support | Editorial: A Not So Nutty Professor
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