Americans continue to develop on their opinion away from keeping drugs illegal, to developing the drug trade into legitimate businesses, and the universal opinion that the War On Drugs has been a failure. So, during the 2020 election season, where are the three presidential nominees who are expected to appear on the ballot in all 50 states stand on the issue?
The issue is about whether Americans have a right to consume products that are good and bad for them, while others have a right to give or sell those products to them. American taxpayers have paid over $1 Trillion in fighting the War On Drugs and will have spent $30 billion more this fiscal year. The overwhelming majority of Americans feel marijuana should be legal in the country while over 70% of Americans feel we should not be imprisoning those using harder drugs like heroin, but treating them rather as a health issue than a criminal issue. Only 9% of Americans feel we are winning the War on Drugs, so where are the candidates on the issue?
Joe Biden was such a vigorous supporter of the 1994 Crime Bill that he boasted it should be called the “Biden Bill” as he pushed for stronger sentences for those who worked in the illegal drug trade and those consuming the illegal products. The result by all measures was a failure as it broke up black families, incarcerated record numbers of Americans and did nothing to thwart the sale of drugs. Even for marijuana, Biden still views it as a gateway drug, even though this has been disproven in multiple studies and most Americans do not feel the same way.
Jo Jorgensen hasn’t needed to evolve on her stance regarding the War on Drugs — she is strongly for ending the War on Drugs. On her first day, she has said she would pardon all those in prison who have been incarcerated for victimless crimes. That does not include people who have committed murder, theft, rape, etc. But if someone was convicted and incarcerated for possessing or using an illegal drug, she would pardon their sentence. She opposes the government hiring private companies to run prisons, solitary confinement for juveniles, mandatory minimums for people charged with drug possession, and the death penalty for drug traffickers.
Donald Trump continues his hard line on the War on Drugs. In April, he announced the sending of navy ships toward Venezuela to intensify the United States’ counter-narcotics operations. Over the years, Trump seems to go in the opposite direction of the nation with the War on Drugs. In the 1990s he was for legalization of marijuana and ending the War on Drugs; however, not these days. Soon after his administration got underway, Trump and his then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions chose to end leniency for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders and start seeking the toughest penalties possible. The only bright spot may be for medical marijuana businesses, whereas Trump has stated he may ease some of the banking laws for those states who have medical marijuana laws (marijuana is still illegal in 8 states).
So, the conclusion on the War on Drugs is that Biden and Trump seem to talk from the same script, while Jorgensen is the presidential candidate looking to end the War on Drugs. This is just one issue of many, and while most American voters are not one-issue voters, it helps show the similarities with the Republican and Democratic candidates while stark difference with the Libertarian candidate.
What many people do not realize about the War on Drugs is that it is not just about possession and sale of illegal narcotics. Ending the War on Drugs has many ancillary effects which would help lower incarceration rates. Civil asset forfeiture, being able to move cash around privately without government peeking into your business, money laundering laws would evaporate, and there are many more laws elected politicians enacted over the years to combat the illegal drug trade.