Presidential Endorsement 2004

At long last, here is Drug WarRant’s analysis and endorsement for the Presidential race. I’ve taken a look at the two major party candidates in several specific areas (some of which have been ignored in other analyses I’ve seen), a quick summary of 3rd party alternatives, and then finally, the endorsement.

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Head to Head: Kerry v. Bush

Medical Marijuana Actions and Statements
Kerry has said that he would end federal raids of medical marijuana patients and has at various times indicated some degree of support regarding medical marijuana. Bush said “I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose.” Of course, both men’s statements are suspect as they are campaign promises. Bush’s statement, however, was made in the 2000 campaign. So we have a potentially broken campaign promise from Kerry versus a proven broken campaign promise from Bush. Slight advantage Kerry.
Kerry co-authored a letter asking the Drug Enforcement Administration to approve a proposal from the University of Massachusetts Amherst to manufacture marijuana for FDA-approved medical marijuana research. In the October 20, 2003 letter to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, Kerry criticized the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s “unjustified monopoly on the production of marijuana for legitimate medical research.”
Bush’s DEA head Asa Hutchinson claimed (pdf) that the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs prevented the United States from establishing such a medical marijuana research facility. Of course, the notion that the Bush administration would avoid doing something because of the United Nations is a little silly, making Hutchinson’s move transparent. The other problem was that Hutchinson was lying — the treaty didn’t prevent this type of medical research facility at all.
(a reasonably good summary of these points available here)
One other point: California is the leader in medical marijuana. Bush has very little interest in pandering to blue-state California — in fact, it sometimes seems that the administration goes out of its way to attack what California does. On the other hand, Kerry needs California, and will need to work to keep California. Federal intervention on medical marijuana in California will hurt Kerry, so he has political motivation to (quietly) leave them alone.

Advantage: John Kerry

The People Surrounding the President
Bush has surrounded himself with some of the most outrageous people in the history of the drug war. There’s the Minister of Disinformation (AKA Drug Czar, AKA Drug Lord) John Walters and the rest of the loonies at the ONDCP, corrupt girls Karen Tandy and Michele Leonhart heading up the DEA, and of course, that Let the Eagle Soar megalomaniac who lost to a dead man in his last election, but was bizarrely put in charge of justice — John Ashcroft. These are just the ones who are most publicly drug war cheerleaders. Clearly there are other advisors in the administration who have developed a strong administration policy that is pro-prohibition.
Kerry, of course, doesn’t have much of a staff yet, but the people he already has are horrible. His choice for Homeland Security Advisor, Rand Beers is a seasoned and committed drug warrior and one of the architects of the notorious Plan Colombia. His Vice President, John Edwards, received an “F” from the Marijuana Policy Project and Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana in part because he supported federal raids on medical marijuana patients.
Frankly, I don’t know how anyone could possibly have a worse set of people overseeing drug policy than the one George W. Bush assembled, but then again, I thought the same thing about Clinton, until Bush came along.

Advantage: Neither

Supreme Court
The next 4 or 8 years could make a big difference in the Supreme Court and the Federal Courts, and this is another area where those of us in drug policy reform find help or hindrance. For the past three decades, the courts have allowed the government to erode much of the 4th Amendment as it relates to the drug war. On the other hand, the courts have overruled the government in a few important cases (including the recent hemp foods case), and we look forward with optimism to the Supreme Court consideration of Raich v. Ashcroft.
So to whom do we look for favorable judge appointments? Drug policy is never talked about as one of the litmus tests in appointments, and keep in mind that justices don’t always follow the viewpoints for which they were appointed.
It is possible, however, to look at other legal philosophies for guidance.
Federalism: States’ rights can be of help to drug policy reform at this point in our struggle. This concept allows states like California to experiment with different drug policies, rather than being stuck lock step in national policy. Normally, you might look to a Republican administration for judges who support states’ rights. While some Republicans individually support states’ rights, this particular administration has demonstrated a complete disdain for the concept, and seems very much more interested in centralized national power. I don’t look for either Kerry or Bush to be hunting for judges committed to defending states’ rights.
Privacy and liberty: Privacy and liberty are huge potential areas for the drug policy reform movement, and these relate to two hot judiciary topics: abortion and gay rights.
Roe v. Wade depends largely on an implicit right of privacy in the constitution. This right of privacy can help our movement as well. Take a look at Alaska, where the State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the legal possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana in the home, specifically because the state constitution has an stated right of privacy. In the area of gay rights, you have Lawrence v. Texas, which is either dependent on a right of privacy or a right of liberty, depending on the analysis. (Check out my article: Gay Sex Ruling May Help Drug Policy Reform.)
In both of these areas, although not for the purpose of advancing drug policy reform, John Kerry is much more likely to attempt to appoint judges who will support constitutional rights of privacy and/or liberty. George W. Bush will appoint judges who claim that since the right of privacy is not specifically stated in the constitution, individuals have no such right.

Advantage: John Kerry

International Relationships in Drug Policy
Under either the Bush or Kerry administration, you can expect more of the same drug war stupidity in Colombia and all of Latin America, plus Afghanistan, and serving as a world-wide bully in forcing other countries to follow failed U.S. policies.
Global drug policy reform, unfortunately, is not going to come from the United States. We have lost our capacity for moral leadership in this area.
Global drug policy reform will be led primarily by the EU and possibly Canada
Check out this report from Transform, a British drug policy think tank, where they lay out the plans for reform over the next decade.
In order for these efforts to succeed, other countries will have to, at some time, work to overturn existing international treaties. Given the power of the U.S., their efforts may be somewhat dependent on how well they can essentially get the U.S. to the table to talk. A Kerry administration will be more interested in international cooperation than a Bush administration.

Advantage: John Kerry

The Administration Working with Congress
Rarely am I pleased with what Congress dreams up regarding drug policy. So having a President willing to sign anything Congress passes is of little interest. Divided government may slow down the ability of government to ruin our lives. Since it’s likely that Congress will remain Republican in this election…

Advantage: John Kerry

With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends?
OK, this one comes from trying to find an actual positive in drug reform from a George W. Bush administration, and the only thing I could find was the fact that some of the drug policy moves are so outrageous and laughable, that they actually help recruit people to drug policy reform. Such as: Sending 30 armed federal agents in flack jackets (after 911) to bust sick people in wheelchairs; Arresting Tommy Chong; Outlawing hemp foods; etc.
However, it’s a faux advantage. While it can be an interesting thought to play around with intellectually, here’s the important question: Can you face the medical marijuana patient who is harassed by federal agents and say “Just hang in there. You are helping make the administration look silly.”?

Advantage: George W. Bush

Third-party Candidates

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Michael Badnarik
Michael is on the ballot in approx. 48 states.
From the National Political Awareness Test:

  • Decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
  • Allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to their patients for medicinal purposes.
  • Eliminate federal funding for programs associated with the “war on drugs.”

I will instruct the DEA to cease the persecution of medical marijuana users. I will advocate that all states legalize medical marijuana. I will pardon all persons incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. I will be begin a policy of dismantling the insane War on Drugs. The Federal Government has no constitutional authority to regulate or outlaw drugs. When the Federal Government outlawed alcohol, it required a constitutional amendment to do so. Nonetheless it has assumed the legal authority to wage its “War on Drugs.”

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David Cobb
David is on the ballot in approx. 28 states.
From the National Political Awareness Test:

  • Decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
  • Expand federally sponsored drug education and drug treatment programs.
  • Eliminate federal funding for programs associated with the “war on drugs.”

The “war on drugs” is actually a war on our civil liberties. It is also a war on people . . . most of whom are poor, young, and disproportionately people of color.

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Ralph Nader
Ralph is on the ballot in approx. 34 states.
From the National Political Awareness Test:

  • Decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
  • Allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to their patients for medicinal purposes.
  • Expand federally sponsored drug education and drug treatment programs.
  • Eliminate federal funding for programs associated with the “war on drugs.”

The Nader-Camejo campaign supports an end to the failed War on Drugs — responsible and rehabilitation focused drug policy. The drug war has failed — we spend nearly $50 billion annually on the drug war and problems related to drug abuse continue to worsen. We need to acknowledge that drug abuse is a health problem with social and economic consequences. Therefore, the solutions are — public health, social services and economic development and tender supportive time with addicts in our depersonalized society. Law enforcement should be at the edges of drug control not at the center. It is time to bring some illegal drugs within the law by regulating, taxing and controlling them. Ending the drug war will dramatically reduce street crime, violence and homicides related to underground drug dealing.

It’s clear that all three of these have better drug policy views than either Kerry or Bush. Of these three, Badnarik is the clear choice.

  1. Badnarik is on the ballot in more states
  2. What a vote for Nader means right now is so confusing, that voting for him for drug policy reform is completely wasted.
  3. Votes for Cobb are more likely to be seen as an environmental statement.
  4. Libertarians have been consistently leading the political charge in drug policy reform. A vote for Badnarik will, at the bare minimum, be seen as a vote for limited government, and is more likely to be seen as a vote for drug policy reform than would a vote for any other candidate.
Advantage: Michael Badnarik

Final Endorsement

Either Bush or Kerry will be President, and neither of them will be good for drug policy reform. Kerry will be bad. Bush will be worse.
As Dean Becker said in the Houston Free Press:

The response of both candidates to the drug war is silence; just like the Houston City Council, just like everyone in government. Superstition and ignorance were the original means of creating this drug war. But now greed has found a goldmine the “prospectors” are unwilling to abandon. This greed is currently disguised, as ignorance, so thick, so molded, ancient and deadly, that to now abandon their claim would mean the destruction of their word, their income and their very futures.

Incrementalism is their only option. A smaller mandatory minimum here, fining pot smokers instead of sending them to prison there. and of course more piss tests to fund the Drug Czar’s affiliates and their urinary universities.

Who do you trust? I trust neither little W nor Big John, but I do trust W a lot less.

The third party candidates would be much better, but they will lose.
The best way I can see to handle this is to split the endorsement geographically. If you are in a state that is clearly going for Bush or Kerry, vote for Badnarik and make a statement for change. If you are in a state where the vote is close, vote for Kerry and say that you won’t support continuing what the administration is doing now. To check the color of your state, check a site like this one right before election day (Note: red state Oklahoma doesn’t have the option of voting for Badnarik, or even write-in options, so skip the Presidential vote there.)

boxEndorsement for Red and Blue States: Michael Badnarik
boxEndorsement for Pastel and White States: John Kerry
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