Presidential Candidates Fail Drug Policy Test

Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2000
Subject: Presidential Candidates Fail Drug Policy Test

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 163 Tuesday March 7, 2000

Presidential Candidates Fail Drug Policy Test


NOTE: an exceptional press release has been sent out on this topic
including a letter signed by scores of organizations nationwide
including the ACLU and the YWCA.

The URLs below flesh out this important story and provide a copy of
the original press release, the open the letter to all presidential
candidates, and the ten questions developed by the NCEDP to be posed
to our candidates.

Original Press Release

Open Letter to Presidential Candidates

Ten Questions for Our Presidential Candidates


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #163 Tuesday March 7, 2000

Anyone looking for different approaches to drug policy issues from the
major candidates for U.S. president must be sorely disappointed.
Variations on the messages and drug policy ideas of John McCain,
George Bush, Al Gore and Bill Bradley are microscopic, even though
more citizens seem to want change.

This week the Boston Globe analyzed the drug policy positions of the
four major candidates and found, basically, business as usual. All the
candidates are standing by the traditional idea of drug prohibition,
even though each of them have had personal experiences that challenge
basic notions about the drug war. Gore and Bradley admit to using
marijuana, while Bush won’t completely deny using illegal drugs and
McCain saw his wife’s substance abuse problem addressed with
compassion, not punishment. However, they all still seem to think
prohibition and punishment is the best policy for the rest of us.

Please write a letter to the Boston Globe to say that basic drug
policy reform is a very important issue that all the candidates need
to confront with real honesty, not more toughness.

Thanks for your effort and support.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


Phone, fax etc.)

Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent
letter list ( if you are subscribed, or by
E-mailing a copy directly to Your letter will then
be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts
and be motivated to follow suit

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.



Source: Boston Globe


The Chicago Tribune also did an Oped on the same subject. Please
consider writing them a letter or sending a copy of your Boston Globe
LTE to them.


Source: Chicago Tribune


Write any paper in the nation on the subject of drug policy in the
presidential debates. Find the email address for sending LTEs to these
papers at


US: Apart From Personal Use, A Key Issue Stays Away
NewsHawk: FoM
Pubdate: Sun, 05 Mar 2000
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
Address: P.O. Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378
Author: John Donnelly, Globe Staff
Cited: Common Sense for Drug Policy
Note: Check the new “We Can Connect You With the Right Reform Group” page at:

Bookmark: Find the MAP archived items on Bush and Gore at: and


The war on drugs, which is likely to get another huge boost in funds,
seems to be missing in action in the presidential campaign.

The candidates’ silence on drug policy, analysts say, may be
attributable to the lack of easy solutions. Or it may stem from a
widely shared belief that any position even hinting at reducing
penalties for drug use would be political suicide.

The only headlines involving drugs in the presidential race have been
whether the candidates themselves used them – not the uses of the
budget, which has jumped from $13.5 billion in 1996 to a proposed
$18.9 billion this year, and which includes a plan to fight drugs in

Former senator Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore both have
admitted to using marijuana in their younger years, and Governor
George W. Bush of Texas is still trailed by unsubstantiated
allegations of cocaine use.

And while Senator John McCain says he never used illicit drugs, his
wife, Cindy, has admitted she once stole prescription drugs from the
charity she directed.

Such talk is a major change from eight years ago, when Bill Clinton,
then a candidate, said he had smoked marijuana but had not inhaled.

“People can now actually speak frankly about their past marijuana use,
and it doesn’t damage them at all,” said Michael Massing, author of
”The Fix,” a history of the war on drugs. ”You would think that
would lead to more rational discussion about drug policy, but it hasn’t.”

Massing said the refusal to discuss lesser penalties ”is baffling in
many ways because Americans have become more tolerant on most issues.
This campaign is encouraging to the fact that anyone seen as imposing
a narrow moral view has been rejected – except on the drug issue.”

Reacting to the issue’s obscurity, a 36-group coalition, including the
Young Women’s Christian Association, the American Civil Liberties
Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People, has called on candidates to answer 10 questions on drug policy.

The questions cover the candidates’ stance on a $1.6 billion Colombian
aid bill; whether they support the means the United States uses to
fight drugs, with one-third of the budget going toward treatment and
prevention and two-thirds toward law enforcement and supply
interdiction; and whether the United States should ”continue to rely
so heavily on incarceration as a solution to drug problems.”

More than 1.5 million people a year are arrested for drug offenses.
In federal prisons, 60 percent of the inmates are sentenced for
drug-related crimes, the overwhelming majority for low-level offenses.

”The drug war is the biggest head-in-the-sand issue in American
policy, and we hope the candidates face up to it,” said Kevin B.
Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, a nonprofit group
based in Falls Church, Va. ”It’s always been safe to do more of the
same, but now more of the same is getting to be absurdly expensive.

”It’s almost a $20-billion-a-year project,” Zeese said. ”We’re
only spending $600 million a year on after-school programs. We say
we’re fighting the drug war to save our kids; I say we’re fighting it
to rob our kids.”

The silence on the issue does not result from lack of knowledge. In
an unusual move, a White House official said, the US drug-policy
coordinator, Barry R. McCaffrey, told President Clinton last year
that he planned to be available to all campaigns.

McCaffrey has conferred with Gore, and he met Bush for two hours in
Texas. McCaffrey has had a relationship with the Bush family dating to
the Gulf War, when Bush’s father was president and McCaffrey was a
general in the Army.

Of the four major candidates, McCain has expressed the most hawkish
positions on drug policy. He 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.

In a policy address last month, 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.

Bush has said little on the issue. A campaign spokesman, Scott
McClellan, said yesterday that the governor favors the Colombian
military package ”to make sure their military is well-trained and
well-equipped to fight the drug traffickers.”

As governor, Bush favored tougher laws for drug offenders, including
signing legislation that allows judicial discretion to sentence
first-time offenders possessing less than one gram of cocaine to a
maximum of 180 days in jail. (Previously, first-offenders received
automatic probation.) Bush also is a strong supporter of faith-based
initiatives to fight addictions.

Bradley and Gore offer different solutions.

Breaking slightly with Clinton administration policy, Gore said he
supports giving doctors greater flexibility to prescribe marijuana to
relieve patients’ pain. Otherwise, Gore closely adheres to the
framework of current policy.

Gore said he would push for ”tougher drug penalties and
enforcement,” would increase drug interdiction efforts, would expand
drug courts and would institute a $2 billion national media campaign
targeted at preventing youth from using drugs. He is supportive of
the Colombian plan.

Bradley wants to spend more money on drug treatment. He says that
”the more effective way to deal with the drug problem is to tackle
the demand side at home rather than at the supply side,” said a
campaign spokesman, Josh Galper.

As for the Colombian plan, Bradley would ”give limited assistance,”
Galper said. ”The important thing for him is that the effort is not
turned into a US war.”

Bob Weiner, spokesman for McCaffrey, said he believed drug policy has
been a non-issue because there was little disagreement with current
policy. ”We’ve worked hard to have this not be a political
football,” he said.

But Thomas J. Umberg, one of the architects of the Colombian aid plan
as deputy director of supply reduction in McCaffrey’s office, who
recently left to rejoin his old law firm in Washington, said he was
surprised about the lack of debate.

In polling done by his former office, he said, it was found that ”the
drug issue is one of very high interest among voters, but people’s
views were that we should do everything. We should interdict, do
prevention, do treatment, lock up criminals for a long period of time.”

The conclusions could squelch debate, he said, or it could encourage
candidates to make choices.

”There are some large issues before policy makers now,” Umberg said.
”What is our international role in drug control? What should the
federal government do about treatment? What about prevention? And how
about state initiatives concerning decriminalization? You would think
there’s enough to talk about.”



To the Editor of the Boston Globe,

I believe drug policy reform is one of the most important issues
facing the country today, so I was pleased to see the Boston Globe’s
story on the attitudes of presidential candidates (“Apart From
Personal Use, A Key Issue Stays Away,” March 5). While it’s nice to
see the media coverage, it’s very disappointing to learn that the four
major contenders for the presidency are so unwilling to challenge the
drug war. More citizens have been able to see that our current system
of prohibition is a cruel failure. This has been clearly demonstrated
whenever state medical marijuana initiatives are placed before voters.

The public is trying to send the candidates a message on this issue,
yet all candidates remain committed to ignoring the message. It’s
enough to make one wonder whose interests Bradley, Bush, Gore and
McCain are really considering. Do they care more about the law
enforcement institutions and drug testing companies that profit from
this multi-billion fraud, or the average people who are being
demonized and punished by drug war profiteers?

When I weigh the evidence, the answer leads me away from voting for
either Republicans or Democrats in the presidential election, as it
did in 1996.

Stephen Young

IMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone

Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it
at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the
same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work.

ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing

3 Tips for Letter Writers

Letter Writers Style Guide





Prepared by Stephen Young – Focus
Alert Specialist