Drug Policy

-Edit this page and contribute information and resources on the policies of John McCain and Barack Obama.
  • For ideas on what to contribute, visit the Immigration and Iraq War pages developed by students at the Noble and Greenough Schoolin Dedham Massachusetts.
-Visit our online social network and participate in various discussions about the election

Background on Drug Policy

The drug policy of the United States is well represented by the declaration of a War on Drugs by President Richard Nixon in June 1971. The war has been continued by every one of his successors to date. Indeed, drug policy has changed little in this time.[1] President Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1973 to focus the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (passed by congress in 1971).
War on Drugs President Bush initiated the ‘War on Drugs’ in the late 1980s. The Office of National Drug Control Policy, directed by Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, sets federal policy. The 1999 drug policy includes:

  • Expanding drug prevention and drug treatment;
  • Establishing ‘drug courts’ and fighting drug legalization;
  • Focusing on cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine;
  • Increasing border shielding.
    Background information:
    • Drug offenders who serve jail time or traditional probation have a recidivism rate of 45%. Of those who completed ‘drug courts’ monitored treatment programs, the rate was 4%.
    • In April 2000, Hawaii's legislature passed a law permitting people to use marijuana as a medical treatment for AIDS, glaucoma, epilepsy, and to alleviate cancer chemotherapy side-effects. There are five other states in which voters have passed initiatives permitting restricted medical use of marijuana, but Hawaii is the first state to enact a law. Users will be able to grow their own marijuana, limited to six plants.
    • 60% of federal prison inmates are drug offenders, as are 22% of state prisoners.
    • 20% of all felony convictions are for drug trafficking; another 12% are for drug possession.
    • About 270,000 people are incarcerated on drug charges, up from 48,000 at the start of the ‘Drug War.’
    • Direct federal spending on the ‘Drug War’ is currently $17 billion per year.

  • Reducing the DemandMethods of reducing drug demand include: random drug testing; increased incarceration of users; and drug education. Since 1986, the courts have upheld random drug testing for federal employees; high school students; job applicants; transportation employees; motorists; and others. The current stated federal goal is a ‘Drug-Free Workplace.’
    Reducing the SupplyMethods of reducing drug supply include: increased border patrols; increased enforcement against drug traffickers at home; and pressuring Latin American countries to do the same abroad. Federal ‘counterdrug interdiction’ currently focuses on five ‘High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas’: Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Houston, and the Southwest border with Mexico.
    Reducing the EffectsMethods of reducing drugs’ effects on society include: legalization; drug abuse treatment; and needle exchange programs. At congressional hearings on ‘The Pros and Cons of Drug Legalization, Decriminalization, and Harm Reduction’ in June 1999, the federal government reiterated its opposition to legalization, medical marijuana, and needle exchanges, and emphasized that the War on Drugs is an unending effort.
    Drug War Buzzwords
    • The biggest components of the drug debate is how to reduce drug usage: by prevention or by punishment.
    • Hard-line liberals and libertarians generally favor legalization. Look for buzz-phrases like "the failed Drug War" or "allow medical marijuana."
    • Moderate liberals and libertarians will generally favor prevention of drug abuse. Look for buzzwords like "more treatment" or "reduce demand."
    • Describing drug use as a health problem (instead of a crime problem) is a buzzword for treatment. Seeking to reduce "prison overcrowding" by means such as "drug courts" (as opposed to building more prisons) is a call for drug tolerance or legalization.
    • Conservatives and populists generally favor punishment for all aspects of the Drug War. Look for buzzwords like "death penalty for drug dealers" or "the scourge of drugs."
    • Moderate conservatives and populists favor punishment while paying lip-service to other aspects of dealing with drugs. Look for buzzwords like "reduce drug supply" or "protect our borders."
    • Centrists nowadays are Drug War advocates -- the New Democrats (led by Clinton and Gore) support maintaining funding for the War on Drugs.
    • Equating alcoholism with drug abuse is a buzzword for marijuana legalization, as is pointing out the hypocrisy of respecting the right of self-harm with alcohol but not of self-harm with drugs.

Pasted from <http://www.ontheissues.org/Background_Drugs.htm>


Drug use has increased in all categories since prohibition [5] except that opium use is at a fraction of its peak level. The big decline in use of opium started already after the Harrison Act of 1914.[6] Use of heroin peaked between 1969 and 1971, cocaine between 1987 and 1989 and marijuana between 1978 and 1979.[7]
U.S. comparison to other countries
Official agencies and departments tasked with implementing drug policies, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, have published several reports which indicate several other countries with restrictive drug policies, for example Finland, Japan, Norway and Sweden, have for decades produced significantly better results than the U.S. (lower prevalence for use of different drugs, fewer citizens imprisoned for drug crimes).

Federal Drug Policy Goals and Objectives
Goal 1: Educate and enable America’s youth to reject illegal drugs as well as alcohol and tobacco.

Goal 2: Increase the safety of America’s citizens by substantially reducing drug-related crime and violence.
Goal 3: Reduce health and social costs to the public of illegal drug use.
Goal 4: Shield America’s air, land, and sea frontiers from the drug threat.
Goal 5: Break foreign and domestic drug sources of supply.

John McCain's Thoughts
McCain wants to increase penalties for selling drugs, supports the death penalty for drug kingpins, favors tightening security to stop the flow of drugs into the country, and wants to restrict availability of methadone for heroin addicts. He said the Clinton administration was “AWOL on the war on drugs” and he would push for more money and military assistance to drug-supplying nations such as Colombia.

McCain supports the following principles concerning illegal drugs:
  • Increase penalties for selling illegal drugs
  • Impose mandatory jail sentences for selling illegal drugs
  • Impose capital punishment for convicted international drug traffickers
  • Strengthen current laws dealing with non-controlled substances, including inhalants and commercially available pills
  • Increase funding for border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the
· Expand Use of Drug Courts: Obama will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
· Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support: Obama will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society.
· Eliminate Sentencing Disparities:The disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.

Pasted from <http://www.ontheissues.org/2008/Barack_Obama_Drugs.htm>

Obama concerns with drugs:
  • Look at needle exchange; and expand treatment. (Feb 2008)
I think it is important that we are targeting HIV/AIDS resources into the communities where we're seeing the highest growth rates. That means education and prevention, particularly with young people. It means that we have to look at drastic measure, potentially like needle exchange in order to insure that drug users are not transmitting the disease to each other. And we've got to expand on treatment programs. And all of that is going to cost some money and some time. But again, if we think about the enormous costs of homelessness, or the enormous cost of HIV/AIDS, over the long term, as people visit emergency rooms, etc. The more we are investing in that ounce of prevention the better off we're going to be.

  • Fight to rid our communities of meth. (Feb 2008)
  • Expand drug courts; help prisoners with substance abuse. (Feb 2008)
  • 2001: questions harsh penalties for drug dealing. (Oct 2007)
  • Not first candidate to use drugs, but first honest about it. (Oct 2007)
  • Do not lower drinking age from 21 to 18. (Sep 2007)
  • Experimented with cocaine but turned down heroin. (Aug 2007)
  • A "secret smoker", especially around reporters. (Aug 2007)
  • Smokes cigarettes now; smoked some pot in high school. (Feb 2007)
  • Admitted marijuana use in high school & college. (Jan 2007)
  • Deal with street-level drug dealing as minimum-wage affair. (Oct 2006)
  • Understand why youngsters want to use drugs. (Aug 1996)
  • Require chemical resellers to certify against meth use. (Sep 2007)

Pasted from <http://www.ontheissues.org/Barack_Obama.htm>