Breaking News:EVENT: No Time Like the Present: Drug Policy Reform is More Urgent Than Ever

Marijuana: Democratic Candidates Forgo Opportunity to Support Decriminalization During Tuesday Night Debate

Drug policy made an ever-so-brief appearance at the tail end of Tuesday night's televised debate among Democratic presidential candidates, and the results were disappointing for drug reformers. When NBC's Tim Russert asked candidates for a show of hands to indicate if they disagreed with Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd's support for marijuana decriminalization, all except Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich raised their hands.

Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama, former Sen. John Edwards, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson all declined the opportunity to take a progressive stand on marijuana policy. Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, who has called for the legalization of drugs, was not invited to the debate.

Here is the transcript of the relevant portion of the debate:

Russert: Senator Dodd, you went on the Bill Maher show last month and said that you were for decriminalizing marijuana. Is there anyone here who disagrees with Senator Dodd in decriminalizing marijuana?

Senator Biden, Senator...

(Laughter)

Senator Edwards, why?

Edwards: Because I think it sends the wrong signal to young people. And I think the president of the United States has a responsibility to ensure that we're sending the right signals to young people.

Dodd: Can I respond just why I think it ought to be? We're locking up too many people in our system here today. We've got mandatory minimum sentences, they are filling our jails with people that don't belong there. My idea is to decriminalize this, reduce that problem here. We've gone from 800,000 to 2 million people, in our penal institutions in this country. We've got to get a lot smarter about this issue than we are. And as president, I'd try and achieve that.

And then it was on to a question about Chinese toys and a question about what candidates would wear for Halloween, and then the debate was over.

Look for detailed coverage of the various Democratic candidates' positions on a number of drug policy issues here next week, with a report on the Republicans' positions the following week. But if the Democratic contenders aren't interested in even giving decrim an approving nod, prepare to be disappointed in their other drug policy positions, too, and expect even worse from the Republicans.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Expect worse from Republicans?

You seem to be forgetting that we have an anti-drug war Republican running for election in 2008, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. He is absolutely in favor of ending the War On (Some) Drugs. Go to www.ronpaul2008.com and support this man who would return the government to the Constitutional Republic our Founders intended.

Ron Paul

Any one who believes in stopping the drug war and votes for any one but Ron Paul is a fool or a hypocrite.

Ron Paul deserves the full support of anyone who actually wants the drug war stopped.

Plus he will be a great president in many other ways

Gus Calabrese

Ron Paul

My congressman, Maurice Hinchey is a democrat. Unfortunately he isn't running for president. He and Ron Paul have several things in common. Both opposed invading Iraq. Both opposed the Patriot Act and Bush's wanting to read people's mail and email without warrants.

Maurice Hinchey introduced 2 medical marijuana bills. Among those congressmen voting with Hinchey were Ron Paul.

I'm not a Republican, but if Ron Paul either gets the Republican Nomination or runs as a third party candidate, I'll vote for him.

Sending the wrong signal?

So let me get this straight... Is the following the right message?

Marijuana is so dangerous that is must be kept from everyone, including adults. Yet, young people lose friends every year from a drug which is legal for adults. No one has ever died of an overdose of marijuana, and I have yet to hear about anyone who wrecked their car simply from being intoxicated on cannabis alone.

So the reason we have to keep cannabis illegal, according to Sen. Edwards (and my Senator, Patty Murray), is to send a message which is untrue. They are telling us that millions of us in this country must remain criminals in order to continue the government's anti-drug propaganda. Not because the drug is actually dangerous, but because we have to convince young people that we think it is.

A law based on illogic, or outright lies, is an immoral law. These people are unamerican and evil for believing this and for spewing it on national television.

Don't expect any serious candidates to endorse decriminalization

Even if Obama, Edwards, Clinton or Richardson completely agreed that marijuana should be decriminalized, in this context they would not answer the question affirmatively. If they had, the Washington Post headline about the debate would have been "Candidate supports Pot" instead of "Clinton's Foes Go on the Attack." If any of them had answered affirmatively, they would have demonstrated an appalling inability to stay on message at a critical moment.

A yes to this question would have had the result Surgeon General Elders had at the National Press Club luncheon in December 1993 when she was presenting the Clinton Administration's anti-violence initiative. I asked her whether drug legalization might be a strategy to reduce violence. Her response that she thought we ought to consider studying legalizing drugs totally dominated the news coverage. The point of her National Press Club event was to get attention for her anti-violence initiatives. That never made the news.

Don't be disheartened by those answers at this event!!

Only when a candidate wants to get news about their position on marijuana, other than medical marijuana, would it ever make sense for any of them to say anything about it that is not the pure conventional wisdom.

Eric Sterling
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation

Ron Paul IS a serious candidate

Get used to it. After the fifth of November no one will be able to ignore him.

He would end the Drug war...
and the Iraq war, and the Afghanistan War, and not start the soon to be Iran war.

What other qualifications do I need to make a choice for President?

http://www.thisnovember5th.com/

Kucinich is the only Democratic Candidate

In my book, Mr. Kucinich is the only Democrat that makes any sense. I encourage you to support him. I don't vote Republican, criminal party. The last time I voted Democratic Party for President was when McGovern ran. But, Kucinich I could get behind.

As far as sending messages goes, that is bull. Doesn't do anything. Those sending messages should be locked up.

Actually, we should be locking up Drug Warriors for war crimes. God knows they have done enough damage to his children.

INCORRECT

CONNECTICUT SENATOR TOM DODD HAS ADVOCATED DECRIMINALIZATION IN TERMS OF STOPPING THE INCARCERATION OF SOME TWO MILLION AMERICANS PER YEAR FOR THE CRIME OF SIMPLE POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA. HE HAS BEEN GIVEN NO CREDIT FOR THIS POSITION. THAT NEEDS TO BE REMEDIED.

LET US ALSO REMEMBER FORMER ALASKA SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL WHO HAS ADVOCATED LEGALIZATION. IT IS NO COINCIDENCE HE HAS NOT BEEN INVITED TO THE LATEST DEBATES.

ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE

RIGHT WING COLORADO CONGRESSMAN TOM TANCREDO, THE DARLING OF THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT AND ADVOCATE OF ZERO-TOLERANCE ANTI-IMMIGRATION LAWS SHOCKED HIS GOP COLLEAGUES BY BOLTING PARTY LINES AND VOTING IN FAVOR OF CONGRESSMAN HINCHEY'S MEDICINAL MARIJUANA AMENDMENT. TANCREDO CONTENDS HIS POSITION IS TOTALLY CONSISTENT WITH CONSERVATISM. HE FEELS IT IS AN OVER EXTENSION OF OUR GOVERNMENT TO CRIMINALIZE THE MANNER IN WHICH SICK PATIENTS CONTROL THEIR PAIN IN THE PRIVACY OF THEIR HOMES . I COULD NOT AGREE MORE

10 TERM CONGRESSMAN RON PAUL IS ESPOUSING A CLASSICAL REPUBLICAN AKA LIBERTARIAN AGENDA. THIS IS NO SURPRISE AS HE ONCE WAS THE LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT. WHAT IS SURPRISING IS THAT HE COULD ACTUALLY WIN THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION AS HE HAS A HUGE FOLLOWING ON THE INTERNET AND WITH THE MILITARY. ANYBODY REGISTERED REPUBLICAN , WHO IS TIRED OF THIS MEAN SPIRITED TAKE NO PRISONERS DRUG WAR, NEEDS TO VOTE FOR RON PAUL.

I JUST WANTED TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT.

THANK YOU.

parties

I don't voter republican or democrat, either. People seem to forget that there are politicians that have a good message that people will listen to, no matter what the party affiliation. Heed this warning!! Keep voting for the lesser of the two evils (parties) and you will find yourseslf in a police state, with an evil president!

Most things I read make me think that the two party situation is conterproductive. It means only the rich can buy their way in! Only the "front-runners", the mainstream media identifies, are to be considered in the race! That should be illegal! Probably is, but in this country it is getting to be "who you know" that determines if you get away with it (avoid charges)!

What's the BIG deal?

Cannabis - Safe and Effective for over 5,000 years...Spread It Around!

I think it's very sad that so many American citizens allow their leaders to treat the
entire American society as an 'errant child'. We are NOT children! We are intelligent,
sensitive, and thoughtful adults fully capable of determining our own choices for
medical options. Why should I even need to make that statement?!

If I want to smoke Pot every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every year
for the rest of my life...then I will - FUCK YOU GEORGE W. BUSH!!! (and all your fucking agents
you pay to strong-arm personal property and prized- possessions away from law-abiding
Americans citizens!)

George W. Bush needs to be prosecuted for 'Aggravated Treason'!

I take comfort in the knowledge that everybody knows, the only criminals involved in the raids
of our dispensaries are all wearing badges and masks! (And...why are these criminal-agents
wearing masks???) I suppose if I was committing crimes against my fellow countryman,
I would want to remain anonymous also.

How much longer can we allow ourselves to tolerate the illegal actions of a misguided government???
Wouldn;t it be nice to pursue 'state' criminal charges against the agents who preform these illegal raids.
Maybe, a citizen's arrest...

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS

It would appear that there is some of the democratic candidates that support medical cannabis and republican candidates, however, actions DO speak louder than words. For instance: say RON PAUL or Clinton SAY they will stop the raids... but how many time has a candidate who really HAS been elected prez followup on their promises? With the american system as it is, brainwashed and indoctrinated with lies and false information, has had a clear consequence on the dimeanor of a candidate even willing to support cannabis, with giggles and stigma laying heavily on their minds as they "falsely" approve of stopping the raids or supporting the decrim of cannabis. They beleive in their own lies. Coz of the american system of indoctrinating the public with false information on cannabis.. It is SOOOO imbedded in the system that ALL of these candidates I feel will not follow thru with a damn thing they promise.

ron paul

ron paul already introduced a bill to legalize medical pot dumbass. Obama never did anything to help legalize it before becoming prez so of course he lied about not raiding medicinal clubs anymore. Paul on the other hand is obviously being honest when he says he support decrim, based on his actions.

Check the date that guy

Check the date that guy posted. lol

Edwards mamby-pamby response

It's always the children. What about the message to the children? Let me tell you something Mr. $400 hair cut wimpy-boy, the message is out, if you want your kid's to have easy access to drugs, simply continue the prohabition/black market.

I want to personally thank you, and all those other cowards for making my kid's lives more dangerous then they would be otherwise!

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