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Trump VP Pick Mike Pence is Bad News on Marijuana, Drug Policy

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #936)
Politics & Advocacy

The Republican nominee's choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate means Trump has selected a man who is the very embodiment of last century's "tough on drugs" prohibitionist attitudes.

Trump VP pick Mike Pence doesn't have a great record on drug policy. ( skidmore)
Pence's anti-drug reform stances are part and parcel of his overall social conservative, Tea Party positions. He has also been a strong opponent of gay marriage and abortion rights and a strong supporter of "religious freedom."

Indiana has tough marijuana laws, with possession of even the smallest amount of pot worth up to six months in county jail and possession of more than 30 grams (slightly more than an ounce) a felony punishable by up to 2 ½ years in prison. Selling any amount more than 30 grams is also a felony, again punishable by up to 2 ½ years in prison.

Mike Pence is just fine with that. In fact, three years ago he successfully blocked a move in the legislature to reduce some of those penalties, saying that while he wanted to cut prison populations, he didn't want to cut penalties to achieve that end.

"I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties," he said. "I think this legislation, as it moves forward, should still seek to continue to send a way strong message to the people of Indiana and particularly to those who would come into our state to deal drugs, that we are tough and we're going to stay tough on narcotics in this state."

Pence did sign emergency legislation allowing for needle exchange programs in some Indiana counties last year, but only after initial resistance, during which more than 150 cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in one county alone. His hesitance was in line with his anti-drug values, as evidenced by his 2009 vote as a US representative to keep intact a federal ban on funding for needle exchanges.

Pence is also a gung-ho drug warrior when it comes to the Mexican border, having voted to support billions in funding for Mexico to fight drug cartels and for using the US military to conduct anti-drug and counter-terror patrols along the border.

Bizarrely enough, there is one drug Pence has no problems with, but it's a legal one: nicotine. That's right, the drug warrior is an apologist and denier for Big Tobacco.

"Time for a quick reality check," he said in 2000. "Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill."

Pence has been handsomely compensated by tobacco companies for his advocacy against anti-smoking public health campaigns, even though they have proven wildly successful in driving down smoking rates. Pence can be viewed as a man who rejects proven public health interventions for one dangerous substance while insisting on failed punitive, prohibitionist policies for another, less dangerous, substance.

(This article was prepared by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays 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.)

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.


Mark Mitcham (not verified)

Lots of people have decided to get the hell out of Indiana, you'll find many Indiana refugees in Colorado...

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 10:38pm Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

Look at the vice President,Biden.He has his name on more draconian anti drug anti people laws and bills than just about anyone.He was known for his hard line stance on drugs.He was what's commonly called a zealot.Bill and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the laws that have resulted in the mass incarceration of minorities in Amerika.Hillary,herself stood up in front of congress and lauded their three strikes and other mass incarceration laws as the way to get "predators"(young black men)into jail and keep them there.There has been very little difference between the two parties when it comes to anti drug hysteria.Under both Democrats and Republicans,Cannabis,was demonized and centered out and created an Amerika that was totally unprepared for the big Pharma opioid push that has heroin now reaching astronomical levels of addiction in Amerika.People who expect the legalisation of cannabis to lessen the drug wars haven't been paying attention.Cartels have huge investment in infrastructure and distribution in Amerika.If cannabis becomes a legal product.They will simply move on to the hard drugs,heroin and cocaine along with methamphetamine,MDMA,Fentanyl and many ever evolving designer drugs.Mike Pence will just flail away and throw more tax money at police who already get more cash yearly than they can properly spend.

Mon, 08/01/2016 - 3:01pm Permalink

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