Drug Addiction Now at the Fore of Policy Making

Presidential candidates finally confronting the issues of drug addiction head-on.

It’s astonishing at how swiftly an issue can rise to the forefront of American politics after essentially being banished from the public forums to now forming such a heated and divisive source of debate among the six front-running presidential candidates.  Once stigmatized and to be avoided at all costs, addiction has now commanded a world spotlight.  This article is an attempt to briefly summarize the leading candidates viewpoints and policy regarding drug addiction.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has had a well documented history of repeatedly dodging drug policy issues of any kind and has taken a noncommittal stance hoping to not get ostracized by the public either way.  At the 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Clinton was grilled by moderators as to her previous reticence to take a decisive position regarding medical marijuana reform.  Clinton had chosen to hang on the fences waiting until more consensus from other states came in before taking a committed stance.

“I think that we have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today. I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief. So, I think we’re just at the beginning, but I agree completely with the idea that we have got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana. Therefore, we need more states, cities, and the federal government to begin to address this so that we don’t have this terrible result of a huge population in our prisons for nonviolent, low-level offenses that are primarily due to marijuana.”

Due to unrelenting inquiry by the press on the campaign trail in September Clinton released a 10 billion dollar program intended at combating drug and alcohol addiction.  

In an op-ed style piece for the New Hampshire Union-Leader Clinton wrote, “This is not new.  We’re not just now ‘discovering’ this problem. But we should be saying enough is enough. It’s time we recognize as a nation that for too long, we have had a quiet epidemic on our hands. Plain and simple, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, not a moral failing—and we must treat it as such.”

The plan would allocate $7.5 billion in funding for states to begin building programs in response to drug and alcohol abuse.  Furthermore, the plan would mandate first responders have access to naloxone – the antidote that helps mitigate and reverse the effects of heroin in the midst of an overdose.  Other earmarks of the plan would be to educate health-care professionals on the dangers of prescription abuse by patients and also keep recidivist rates low amongst incarcerated drug offenders and provide them with ongoing mental health treatment and medication.  

Donald Trump

Over the years Trump has had a wavering back and forth history with regards to drug policy. In 1990 he asserted that legalizing drugs and keeping the proceeds to go towards drug education would be a step in the right direction.  According to Trump, “You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.” In his autobiography released in 2000, The America We Deserve he posits that he never once indulged with drugs of any kind.  “I’ve never taken drugs of any kind, never had a glass of alcohol. Never had a cigarette, never had a cup of coffee.” If this is indeed true the man has an almost inhuman level of discipline and self-restraint.

His refrainment from drugs and alcohol most likely stems from the premature death of his brother due to alcoholism.  His brother made him promise never to smoke or drink and he has stayed committed to that vision never straying from his vow with his departed sibling abstaining from all illicit substances to this very day.  

Presently, the impending marijuana reform policy of today he hasn’t been too keenly supportive of and has some harsh words to offer. At the 2015 CPAC conference in reply to an inquisition about marijuana legalization, he said, “I say it’s bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about it.”

However he has since wilted on marijuana reform stating that individual states should come to a decision based on their own merit.  At a Republican presidential rally in Nevada he went on the record as saying, “I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” as reported by The Washington Post.

In reference to more potent substances like heroin Trump has a pointedly aloof attitude endemic of his stance on immigration, essentially building a wall was his solution in so few words.  This apathetic perspective on Trump’s part is rather unsettling especially given the rising complication heroin has grown to become.

Ted Cruz

Likewise as with Trump, Cruz has made allusions with the drug problem and border security. This past January he made a statement referring to the trafficking coming from the Mexican border is largely to blame for the majority of drug woes and that clamping down efforts with tighter border security measures is likely to be the solution.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice in which the presidential contenders wrote manifestos for the New York University School of Law, Cruz penned the following passage:

“Given the undeniable costs and dubious benefits of mass, longterm incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, Congress should take steps to give judges more flexibility in sentencing those offenders. The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015, which was introduced by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), and of which I am an original cosponsor, is a significant stride in that direction. Among other things, the bill lowers minimum sentences, cutting them in half, to give judges more flexibility in determining the appropriate sentence based on the unique facts and circumstances of each case.”

Cruz has also had trouble in connecting on a human level with his votership.  Carly Fiorina has been more active regarding her family member’s battle with addiction and it seems Cruz has his own murky past history dealing with family members drug exploits.   

It would appear that Cruz’s older sister Miriam had a long drawn out battle with drug addiction that she tragically lost.  Cruz has been hesitant to share details about her personal demons only stating, “ she made some foolish decisions, over and over.”  

It would be great to see Cruz provide more personal testimony into this family tragedy and how he could possibly use it as a force of good to cast a positive light on the menace of drug addiction.  Stay tuned for our second installment of this piece coming soon.