In his most pointed remarks on drug policy to date, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader called last week for the legalization of marijuana and the reform of "self-defeating and antiquated" drug laws.
At a Santa Fe, New Mexico news conference last Friday, where he shared the podium with New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who has also spoken out forcefully and repeatedly for drug policy reform, Nader lambasted major party candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush for failing to address drug policy.
"The presidential candidates from the Republican and Democratic parties do not want to discuss the failed war on drugs," said Nader. "Now, this is obviously a subject on the minds of millions of Americans. It's a subject people talk about all the time. It's a subject that occupies huge amounts of law enforcement personnel."
But, said Nader, when it comes to drug policy, all Bush and Gore want to talk about is more military aid to Colombia.
Rather than "criminalizing and militarizing the situation," Nader said, we should treat drug abuse as a public health problem.
"Addiction, no matter what kind of addiction, should not be criminalized," said the Green Party candidate. "It's got to be subjected to health programs and caring programs, because they work."
Governor Johnson, a Republican, called Nader "an American hero" and said Nader should be allowed to participate in any presidential debates, but declined to endorse Nader's candidacy. Nader, who is currently running at 3% in recent polls, probably will not qualify for the debates under rules drawn up by the two dominant parties.
Johnson also noted that although his drug reform stand has not received much public support from elected officials, things are different in private. "Behind closed doors, yes, there are a lot who agree," he said.
Nader responded to Johnson's remarks by noting the degree to which talk of drug reform is politically off-limits.
"We live in a time in our history when common candor is called courage," he said. "If you say what's on your mind and you have a plain-spoken description of what everybody knows... that the drug war has failed, you are considered politically courageous."
Earlier in the week, Nader strongly criticized the US government and drug czar Barry McCaffery in particular for putting obstacles in the path of industrial hemp production. Nader said the DEA's proposed new rules that would require a product containing any amount of THC to be classified as a Schedule I controlled substance "will make it impossible for farmers to grow the crop."
Complaining that anti-marijuana hysteria has blocked hemp production, Nader compared hemp to poppy seed bagels or nonalcoholic beer. "Although these foods have a small psychoactive component, people do not abuse them."
"I have an observation for Gen. McCaffrey," said Nader. "I don't think even Gen. McCaffrey could get high on one-third of one percent THC. He might get a stomach ache."
Nader also criticized the August 24th federal raid on an Oglala Nation hemp field in South Dakota (see story above), saying that "while Canadian and other farmers prosper from industrial hemp, American farmers are unlikely to see its benefits anytime soon."
Nader campaign press releases on drug policy and hemp policy are online at http://www.votenader.com/press/000908drugwar.html and http://www.votenader.com/press/000905hemp.html respectively.
See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/143.html#nader for previous coverage of the Nader campaign. Read our interview with Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/144.html#harrybrowne online.