Skip to main content

Presidential Politics: Democrat Mike Gravel is Latest to Say Legalize

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #487)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Opposition to the drug war among major party presidential candidates has thus far been represented by Rep. Ron Paul, libertarian Republican congressman from Texas, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, progressive Democratic congressman from Ohio. The list just got longer. Former Alaska US Senator Mike Gravel is definitely a long-shot for the Democratic Party 2008 presidential nomination, but his performance at the first Democratic presidential candidates debate (transcript here) April 26 in Charleston, SC, really raised his profile and is giving Paul and Kucinich some competition for the anti-prohibitionist vote.

Gravel's combination of humor and anger as he attacked President Bush and his fellow Democratic contenders for their stances on the Iraq war, relations with Iran, and other issues were for many watchers the first introduction to a man who retired from politics in 1980. But the Mike Gravel who played a key role in the publication of the Pentagon Papers and ending the draft all those years ago didn't really seem to have changed all that much. He's still the iconoclast he was forty years ago.

It shows in his position on drug policy. According to his campaign web site, Gravel's prison and drug reform plank is as follows:

"The United States incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other peacetime nation in the world. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics the number of US residents behind bars has now reached more than 2.3 million.

"We are losing an entire generation of young men and women to our prisons. Our nation's ineffective and wasteful 'war on drugs' plays a major role in this. We must place a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and prevention. We must de-criminalize minor drug offenses and increase the availability and visibility of substance abuse treatment and prevention in our communities as well as in jails and prisons.

"We must increase the use of special drug courts in which addicted offenders are given the opportunity to complete court supervised substance abuse treatment instead of being sentenced to prison. We must eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing laws. We must increase the use of alternative penalties for nonviolent drug offenders. Drug defendants convicted of nonviolent offenses should not be given mandatory prison sentences. We should emphasize the criminalization of the importers, manufacturers, and major distributors, rather than just the street vendors. Prisons in this country should be a legitimate criminal sanction -- but it should be an extension of a fair, just and wise society."

But Gravel went much further in a May interview with the Iowa Independent. When asked if he really thought marijuana should be legal, and should cocaine and methamphetamine be legal, too, he replied: " When are we are going to learn? We went through the Depression and we realized how we created all the gangsters and the violence. When FDR came in he wiped out Prohibition. We need to wipe out this whole war on drugs. We spend $50 billion to $70 billion a year. We create criminals that aren't criminals. We destabilize foreign countries. With respect to marijuana, Doug, I'll tell you what: Go get yourself a fifth of scotch or a fifth of gin and chug-a-lug it down and you'll find you lose your senses a lot faster than you would smoking some marijuana."

When pressed again about cocaine and meth, Gravel replied: "We need to legalize the regulation of drugs. The drug problem is a public health problem. It's not a criminal problem. We make it a criminal problem because we treat people like criminals. You take a drug addict, you throw him in jail, you leave him there, and he learns the criminal trade so that when he gets out you have recidivism."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Wow! How refreshing! A voice of reason from a respected statesman. He is right. You know it, and so do countless Americans. The problem is, we have created another avenue of graft and corruption that lines politicians' pockets, feeds our overblown corrections system, makes millionaires out of drug distributors, creates jobs for drug rehabilitation institutions, etc., etc. It will not be easy to deprive those who are reaping vast wealth from this "war on drugs."

Fri, 05/25/2007 - 1:50pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I have been here 21 years today this is process to eliminate minoritys mainly african americans i have written numberous articles...I never been volient person...theres more feel free write me...Rufus Rochelle #08628-017 PObox 1032 Coleman FL,33521 {MED}

Sat, 05/26/2007 - 4:57pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I hope and pray that this madness will soon end. From my prospective, I'm tired of living where a militant law enforcement presence makes my life experience a misery.
They are just another predator!
Something must be done to stop them from enslaving innocent American citizens. I know of several unfortunates who are serving long prison sentences, for crimes such as "possesion immitation cocaine." What was that corn starch, or perhaps talc? That poor man is an Afro American!
Others, including my own family members, were set up, by criminals, conspiring with law enforcement, to receive less time, by entrapping non criminals, who are wrongfully sent to prison, where they are tortured and horribly abused!
I know a man who purchased some pre-natal vitamins for his expectant wife. While walking out of a large, well known drug store, the receipt stapled to a bag, containing the vitamins,
he was confronted by four men, in plain clothes. Thinking
they were robbers, he fled in his vehicle, only to be persued, beaten up, and taken to jail, where he discovered they were actually law enforcement officers.

After being releived of over $2000.00, cash from his wallet; it was confisicated and labled "drug money". His charge? Posession of "synthetic esctacy"! As far as I know he never got his money back. I spoke with his father, who had loaned the $2000.00 to buy a wide screen television, the poor guy was still incarcerated, and fighting for his freedom. What a nightmare, living where this is the norm! I am so weary of this facist state, I don't honestly know where to find decency and integrety, in government. This is only a small part of the story, space prohibits writing it all down, but I'm sure you get my drift! By the way, I am a Florida resident!

Mon, 05/28/2007 - 3:18pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.