Drug Policy

Is Chris Dodd Only Two Notches Below Ron Paul on Drug Policy?


At the Drug Policy Alliance's conference in New Orleans last week, I ran into someone from the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, which has prepared "The Anti-Prohibitionist Presidential Candidate Report Card." These ratings, which reflect the candidates' positions on a variety of drug policy issues, are an instructive contrast with the grades handed out by Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, a group that focuses on the issue of federal interference with state policies regarding the medical use of cannabis. Not surprisingly, Ron Paul (along with Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich) gets an A+ from both groups. But Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, who receive an A and an A?, respectively, on the medical marijuana issue, both get downgraded to a C when their other drug policy views are taken into account. So does Tom Tancredo, who garnered an A+ from Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana because he has clearly stated, on federalist grounds, that states should be allowed to go their own way on this issue. The leading Republicans—Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson—all get F's, although Thompson's grade is presumptive, since he "has thus far eluded the necessity of defining himself on drug and marijuana policy."

Notably, Christopher Dodd, who gets an A for his medical marijuana position, loses only a third of a grade on the broader measure, mainly because of his support for marijuana "decriminalization." I'm not sure the A? is deserved. Decriminalization means different things to different people, and in Dodd's case he seems to have in mind something pretty similar to the status quo. When Bill Marr asked him for "a good reason why, in a free and fair society, marijuana ought to be illegal," here is what Dodd said:

I've taken the position, certainly with medical use of marijuana, that it ought to be allowed. I think 12 of 13 states allow that today. In fact, we just had a huge debate in the committee in which I serve dealing with the issue, and I strongly advocated that these states not be biased or prejudiced  because they allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes….Decriminalization, I strongly advocate as well. We're cluttering up our prisons when we draw distinctions—let me go beyond marijuana—in terms of crack cocaine and powder cocaine, where we have differentials in prison sentences. So I would decriminalize, or certainly advocate as president the decriminalization of statutes that would incarcerate or severely penalize people for using marijuana. But I want to be careful, and I know there are a lot of people across the political spectrum who would just totally legalize it. I would not go that far.

Although marijuana offenses (overwhelmingly simple possession) account for two-fifths of drug arrests, people in the U.S. generally are not incarcerated merely for using marijuana. In the states that are commonly said to have "decriminalized" possession of marijuana in small quantities, jail is not even a theoretical possibility. But it's not as if the rest are sentencing pot smokers to prison left and right. So depending on how you define "severely penalize" (the collateral sanctions suffered by people arrested for marijuana possession seem pretty severe to me), Dodd is not necessarily calling for any change in existing policy. At best, I think, he is saying that all the states should follow the 11 "decrim" states by eliminating the possibility of jail for minor marijuana possession and setting a modest fine as the maximum official punishment. That would be an improvement, especially if possession for personal use were treated as a citable offense instead of a misdemeanor. But people who grow pot (even for personal use), distribute it (even for free), or possess more than the legal limit would still be subject to criminal penalties.

And let's not forget offenses involving all the other illegal substances, which account for most of the people in prison on drug charges. It seems strange to put Dodd, who presumably would leave the laws applying to these drugs essentially unchanged (except for rejiggering cocaine sentencing), only two notches below Paul, who wants to repeal drug prohibition outright.

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  1. Maybe it’s because he supports full legalization for the financial services industry. He even has a campaign sticker which says “ENRON WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED IF ARTHUR ANDERSON EMPLOYEES WERE HIGH”.

  2. Dude! It’s Bill Maher.

  3. What if we just called it ‘deregulation’ rather than legalization?

  4. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards certainly do not deserve A’s for their mmj positions. F’s would be more like it. While they may have said they would stop DEA raids in CA, they have said little supportive beyond that. Granite Staters has a video on YouTube of Hillary saying that the only “ethical” way to have mmj is to isolate the components into pharmaceutical industry produced meds. I guess she has already sold out to the pharmaceutical industry in her attempt to get elected, and despite hubby Bill’s support for decrim as he was outgoing in 2001, Hillary has made it clear that even mmj will not be legal on her watch.

  5. Dodd’s not here, man…

  6. The leading Republicans-Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson-all get F’s

    But… but… Dondero keeps telling us that Rudy is a True? Libertarian?!

  7. What if we just called it ‘deregulation’ rather than legalization?

    For every “conservative” who would change their mind because of that, two lefties who currently support decriminalization would start calling for beheading drug dealers.

  8. Baked, you’re probably right.

    What if we called it an alternative energy source? That might balance it back. It is carbon-neutral, after all.

  9. …or carbon positive. At least until it gets smoked. Good plan.

  10. That would be a green solution

  11. For a Democrat Dodd is pretty good on certain things. Too bad hes in the 1% ghetto.

    If I could control Presidential elections I’d make Paul and Thompson the front-runners for the Republicans, and Richardson and Dodd the Democratic front-runners.

    HRC and RudyMcRomabee would be in the 1% ghetto.

  12. Thompson is the only R other than Paul I’d even consider voting for, and only if he was running against HRC or Edwards in a very close race.

    I’d vote for Dodd & Richardson over any of the other Republicans. If Huck, Benito or Mitt the Twit got nominated, I’d volunteer for Dodd or Richardson.

  13. despite hubby Bill’s support for decrim as he was outgoing in 2001

    Let’s see he took office in January of 1993 and called for MJ decrim* in January of 2001?

    And that makes the Dems “better” on drug policy how? Does anybody think he meant it?

    He was free to use the bully pulpit and executive orders (without election repercussions)for drug policy change as of early November 1996.

    IIRC his Justice Department was as vigorous in opposing State reforms and enforcing Federal Drug Laws as Bush’s.

    * citation please…for the humor value.

  14. Thompson’s grade is presumptive, since he “has thus far eluded the necessity of defining himself on drug and marijuana policy

    So he gets an “F”, despite his strong advocacy for Federalism. Haven’t these Communist hippies ever heard of an “incomplete”?

  15. Nobody is two notches below Ron Paul on anything.

  16. I met Chris Dodd in DSM last week, thanked him for his saying what only a righteous person can, he’s not another politician suffering from ‘Reefer Blindness’. As a medical marijuana patient I need legal protection and access.

    here’s the pic…….


  17. Hillary Clinton gets an A on medical MJ?

    No way!

  18. Hillary Clinton gets an A on medical MJ?

    Why do you think they call it “DOPE”.

  19. Hey everyone, check out this site for a Times Square Ad to coincide with the 16 Dec Tea Party Money Bomb. The cutoff is the 12th (I know, not much time), but they only need $50,000.
    Great advertising scheme that would reach lots of people.


  20. Jacob,

    Thank you for sharing your opinions on our “Anti-Prohibitionist Candidate Report Card.” My only defense for Dodd’s grade is that in seven years teaching freshman composition, I occasionally saw an essay that was way better than an A+ on my usual scale. Believe me, Ron Paul’s principled, consistent opposition to federal Drug Prohibition has not gone unnoticed by our organization. On the other hand, we’d be delighted to have a president who wanted to end criminal penalties for marijuana possession, and Dodd had the guts to raise that issue, so he got about a 90% to Paul’s 100%.

    It’s okay, I’m used to having to explain grades. 😉

  21. Ron and a few other groups will be talking about relegalizing drugs at the Liberty Forum in NH Jan 3-6th


    Ron Paul
    Peter Christ from LEAP
    Ethan Nadelmann from DPA
    Jim Babka from Downsize DC
    Peter Bagge from Reason
    and more

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