It came near the very end of last night's Fassbinder-long debate, so some people might have missed an interesting exchange on drugs. It started when Tim Russert used Chris Dodd as a fulcrum to get the frontrunning candidates to talk about legal pot.
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?
A little hard to see whose hands went up: Some of the crowd laughed, Biden stuck up his hand, Obama tentatively started to raise his. Edwards shot his hand up like a retiree who just scored bingo.
Russert: 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.
Will I shock anybody if I suggest that Edwards is an enormous phony? When a medical marijuana activist confronted him in New Hampshire, Edwards said he'd stop FBI raids on dispensaries and patients and put the FDA in charge of the issue. "It's a heewwge political footbawl," he said. Then he arrives on a debate stage, captures the football, and runs it into the end zone. "But he's talking about medical marijuana in New Hampshire and recreational use in Philadelphia!" Right, like the "wrong signal to young people" line isn't used to attack medical marijuana users.
Dodd had to throw an elbow to get in and respond to this.
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.
There are now three Democratic candidates* who say unequivocally that they want decriminalized marijuana: Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Combined, they poll at around 2 percent.
I've posted some of Dodd's and Gravel's chatter about this at Reason.tv.