Bush vs. Sanders: Grading Presidential Policy on Marijuana Reform


Originally written by Monterey Bud for Marijuana

As the festival of shame tours the country, pandering for votes and making promises they’ve little intention of keeping, the 2016 Presidential primaries have occasionally touched on the socially relevant topic of marijuana legalization during the Republican and Democratic debates.

While both sides obviously hold opposing views on the legalization issue – one seems slightly more motivated to act based on their conviction.

During last night’s CNN town hall event in South Carolina, Gov. Bush was asked a probing question regarding his stance on drug addiction and the potential legalization of recreational drug use.

It began when Anderson Cooper introduced an undecided Republican, Will McCutcheon, and encouraged him to ask Gov. Bush whatever was on his mind.

Bush: Hey, Will.

Q: Governor Bush, I’m a student here at the University of South Carolina. Recreational drug use has become relatively commonplace on college campuses. As we look, and as a student here, I observe that one of the most frequently used drugs is marijuana. And advocates for it would say that it’s harmless; that it’s not physically addictive. Yet I’ve watched several friends, close relatives, people who were like brothers to me, become frequent users of the drug; become unable to do just basic functions like sleeping and eating without smoking beforehand.

What is your stance on legalization of recreational drug use? And also, if elected president, what are you going to do to combat drug abuse and addiction in this country?

A: Two separate distinct questions, both of which are really important, Will. The idea that recreational drugs – the terminology is probably a little misleading if you think about it, because of the potency of – of this generation of marijuana. It has major impacts – neurological impacts. There are scores of studies that suggest this.

And yet it’s laughed off because culturally that’s an obsolete notion. Well, it isn’t. My wife was on the board of CASA, the leading advocate of research and development dealing with addiction and dealing with drug use and alcohol use in this country. And you – just go on their website and see the devastating nature of, to your point, of the abuse of marijuana and the devastating impacts that has on productivity; the impacts it has on brain damage. This is not some idle kind of conversation. This is a serious problem. Addiction in general is a huge problem for our country. If you believe like I – like I said, informed by my faith that we all are here for a purpose, and if we could imagine everybody reaching their full potential, that we’d have a lot less government. We would have a much, much more compassionate and loving society; a much more prosperous society.

That – that I can see, looking over the horizon. Well, with addiction, that makes it harder. Alcohol and drug abuse is a serious problem that crosses all ethnic lines, income lines. Colum and I have struggled with, as parents of a daughter who – who is now 10 years drug-free. But she got into the criminal justice system because of her addictions. There are a lot of people that have mental health challenges combined with addiction.

So here’s what I think we should do. My first impulse on all of these issues is a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down approach, where Washington should be the partner to help solve these problems. But we should recognize that we should change – I’ll give you three things that we ought to do. We ought to have a – we ought to have a focus on the brain. Talking about moon shots – here’s a moon shot for you. Why don’t we discover the brain, its complexities?

You think about the challenges – neurological challenges that play out in our society – drug addiction, alcohol addiction, Alzheimer’s, autism – all of these things relate to the brain and this extraordinary capability we have to discover drugs to cure disease. We have not been as advanced, as it relates to the brain. And I think that’s one place the federal government can play an important role.

Secondly, we need to look at our criminal justice system – 50 percent of all prisoners in our federal system are there because of drug use, in a – in a variety of different ways – 50 percent. That’s much higher than the – than states, generally.

But I think we ought to review this. Maybe we should focus a little bit more on treatment and a little less on – on punishment. You go talk to the sheriffs wherever you live, and the police chiefs – whoever runs the – the jails, and you’ll find that a lot of people that are addicted to drugs are being housed in our jails, rather than getting treatment.

It costs a lot more to keep someone in jail than it does to give them treatment along the way. In Florida, we created a huge strategy to deal with this, and we created drug courts all across the state, to give people a second chance.

The adjudication was withheld for the crime that might – might have gone along with their addiction, but in return, you had to get straight. You had to become drug free, and you had to be in recovery. That is a far better approach in our society, I think, than just putting people away without giving them the kind of treatment that – that they need.

Once completed with his bumbling and nearly incoherent answer, riddled with inaccurate factoids, the young man thanked Gov. Bush and sat down. Now thoroughly frustrated and flipping the channel as fast as I could, I landed on NBC news just as Chuck Todd was asking how a Pres. Sanders would do a better job at narrowing the racial schism than his predecessor?


Q: You said race relations would be better under a President Sanders than they’ve been under President Obama. What — what did you mean by that?

A: Well, what I believe is President Obama has made significant progress. We’re going to build on that progress. We can always do better. And the progress that we can build on is to understand that we should not have 35 percent of African-American kids in this country living in poverty. We need real police reform. We need to make sure that when people are in jail, often, African-American and Latino, there is a path back — back to civil society so that we don’t have the rates of recidivism that we do right now.

We have got to do away with mandatory minimum sentences. And I’ll give you one example where we can make huge progress. Right now, it turns out that the African-American community and the white community smoke marijuana at about equal levels, OK? But it also turns out that blacks are four times more likely to be arrested than whites for possession of marijuana, OK? And that is why I believe that we should take marijuana out of The Federal Controlled Substance Act. Too many lives have been destroyed. Too many young people have been — incurred police records for possession of marijuana.

Todd: All right, Senator, thank you.

The naked truth: Appealing to common sense and true liberty for all, Sen. Sanders approach would end the federal criminalization of marijuana in the United States, while Gov. Bush’s approach would petition for the hopeless craziness of a drug-free world.

(Presidential Scorecard Courtesy of MPP.org)

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