25 August, 2008

The Candidates and Legalization of Drugs

This is the twenty-fourth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) plans regarding legalization of drugs.

Unlike the last few topics, there's a lot of "wiggle room" on this one. A candidate could be in favor of only "medicinal marijuana" use, or could be in favor of having crack cocaine in vending machines at elementary schools.

One of the places I visited for information on this subject was the website for NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws). Another site I visited was StopTheDrugWar.org. Obviously NORML is at one end of the spectrum I mentioned above and isn't going to give me a full picture, but it's probably safe to say that if a candidate isn't for "medicinal marijuana", then he's probably not for decriminalization of cocaine either.

So, to Barack Obama.

He conditionally supports medicinal marijuana use:

I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It's not a good use of our resources.

It's worth noting that such a statement isn't very unequivocal. He doesn't say that medical marijuana is ok, just that raids on such users are not a good use of Justice Department resources. In a similar vein I could say that using State Troopers to trap and fine jay walkers isn't a good use of resources either. That doesn't really tell you much about how I feel about jaywalking.

In fact, it does appear that he wants some pretty strict limitations:

Obama said that he wasn't in favor of legalization without scientific evidence and tight controls. Citing his mother who died from cancer young, Obama compared marijuana to morphine saying there was little difference between the two.

"My attitude is if the science and the doctors suggest that the best palliative care and the way to relieve pain and suffering is medical marijuana then that's something I'm open to because there's no difference between that and morphine when it comes to just giving people relief from pain,” Obama said. “But I want to do it under strict guidelines. I want it prescribed in the same way that other painkillers or palliative drugs are prescribed.”

This last statement leads me to believe that medicinal marijuana is as far as Obama is willing to go down the decriminalization path.

McCain won't even go that far:

I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug. That is my view and that's the view of the federal drug czar and other experts, although that is also a debatable question. I think that there is much more effective ways of relieving pain and suffering than the use of marijuana, and so therefore I view it as something that I do not support.

He's not wholly in favor of Justice Department raids, however:

The sheriff said, 'Mark me down as undecided.' Thanks for the help, thanks a lot. It is my view -- and I thank you for your opinion -- this is a big issue in the state because it has come up many times ... I think there's other ways to relieve pain. I am not sure I would send -- I would ask the sheriff what his priorities are as far as law enforcement because they are the ones required to do it

You can find several quotes from both candidates at the aforementioned sites, but it's just more of the same.


Obama: D+. It's hard to imagine giving Obama any grade higher than this (and quite easy to imagine giving him one that's lower), since he appears to only be in favor of medicinal marijuana and only under strict controls.

McCain: F. Well, he doesn't support decriminalization in any form that I can see. All things considered, though, his position isn't all that different than Obama's, which led me to lower Obama's grade from a C- to a D+.

Legalization of Drugs: Advantage Obama.

UPDATE: There's been some criticism of me for giving Obama such a low grade when sites I linked gave him an A. First of all, I'm looking at the entire picture, and that A grade was for medicinal marijuana only. Secondly, in my opinion, that A is unwarranted based upon his statements. If I were giving him a grade on medicinal marijuana only, I'd probably give him a C.

Results so far:
  Obama McCain
First Amendment F D-
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B
Seventh Amendment C C
Eighth Amendment C B
Eleventh Amendment B+ B-
Thirteenth Amendment D+ B+
Fourteenth Amendment D+ C+
Fifteenth Amendment B B
Nineteenth Amendment B B
Twenty-First Amendment A- A-
Twenty-Third Amendment A- B
Twenty-Fourth Amendment B B
Twenty-Sixth Amendment B B
Taxes D B-
Abortion A+ D
National ID F F
Voter ID A+ F
Card Check F A+
Legalization of Drugs D+ F

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

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