Drug Policy

Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Drug Policy

All four say states should be free to legalize pot, but only two say that's a smart policy.

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Jacob Sullum

A recently released draft of the Democratic Party's platform calls for federal accommodation of state-licensed marijuana businesses. As I explain in my latest Forbes column, that's quite a turnaround from the last time the party's platform discussed marijuana:

The last time the Democratic Party's platform mentioned marijuana was in 1984, when it cited "25 million regular abusers of marijuana" and "15,000 tons of marijuana" entering the United States each year as "clear evidence that we are losing the effort overseas to control the production and transshipment of…dangerous drugs." The draft for this year's platform mentions marijuana half a dozen times, and the context is notably different:

"We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites, despite similar usage rates."

Assuming something like that language is included in the final version of the platform, the Democrats, after three decades of silence on the subject, have gone from advocating an escalation of the war on weed to facilitating more tolerant approaches, including outright legalization. What's more, every presidential candidate you are likely to see on your ballot this November agrees that states should be free to legalize marijuana—a remarkable development attributable not only to the landmark 2012 initiatives in Colorado and Washington but to a concomitant shift in public opinion nationwide.

Once you get beyond the question of how the federal government should respond to states that legalize marijuana, there are some notable differences on drug policy among the four parties with wide ballot access. Here is a summary of where they stand, arranged from least to most tolerant.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. Assuming something like that language is included in the final version of the platform, the Democrats, after three decades of silence on the subject, have gone from advocating an escalation of the war on weed to facilitating more tolerant approaches, including outright legalization.

    Even if that language is in the platform, there’s no way they’re actually going to willingly take away that valuable tool for the enforcement arm of their other, real policies.

  2. The Dems believe states should be laboratories of democracy for marijuana. Fine with me-now let’s try the same for gun rights.

    Both major parties say this shit for causes they believe in and slap it down with the pimp hand for things they disagree with. Hypocrites all but, hey, that’s politics.

    1. Beat me to it, G.

      You’ll never see:

      “We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on all issues, and those states that want to try anything should be able to do so.”

  3. “We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana”

    I bet all those politicians who “experimented” with marijuana in their youth were all doing “research.” Yeah, that’s it.

    “Don’t bother me, man, I’m doing research.”

    1. Reminds me of an old cartoon.

      A young hippie-garbed Slick Willy is holding a joint, with his eyes spirals and druggie-bubbles floating around his head.

      A guy in the background explains to a companion: “Oh, *him*? That’s ‘Wild Bill’ Clinton. He never inhales, because he wants to be President some day.”

  4. Coming next: their views on ass sex and Mexicans

  5. As Reason has explained previously, the stuff about states being able to “experiment” comes from a dissenting opinion by Justice Brandeis. The Supreme Court declared
    that the states couldn’t pass a law to arbitrarily exclude people from the ice business. Brandeis’ dissent said states *should* have the power to pass these sorts of quasi-monopolistic laws –

    “There must be power in the States and the nation to remould, through experimentation, our economic practices and institutions to meet changing social and economic needs. I cannot believe that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment, or the States which ratified it, intended to deprive us of the power to correct the evils of technological unemployment and excess productive capacity which have attended progress in the useful arts.

    “…It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

    So the rationale for allowing the states to “experiment” on the people is that, sure, the states may from time to botch the job, but the other states won’t be effected, and maybe the experimenting state may hit upon some policy other states can emulate – you know, to address the problem of “excess productive capacity.”

    Democrats are all over that.

    1. The draft platform uses Brandeis “laboratories of democracy” language, not his “experiment” language.

      1. “IT USED TO BE ALIVE!!”

  6. Forbes, therefore unreadable. Not turning off my ad blocker.

    1. You’d think Forbes, a rich-people magazine run by a rich person, would be able to afford people with ad blockers reading their stuff.

      1. It’s antisemitism.

    2. Yeah, can someone cut and paste the most relevant text of this article? Not even sure HOW to turn off the adblocker I didn’t know I had enabled.

  7. You would think that at least one of them might argue for self ownership and that the state has no business dictating what we may or may not ingest.

    1. You would think that the Libertarian party might nominate a full-on libertarian who doesn’t play nice with Clinton’s abuses of power and who consistently defends the principle of self-ownership.

      You would be wrong.

      Still have my GayJay bumper sticker from the last election, but mulling over peeling it off and leaving the LP one, the TX LP one, and the one that just says “Depraved”.

      1. You mean nominate someone like, uh, Ron Paul?

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