844-875-5609

How Will the Next President Tackle Our Drug Problems?

What are the presidential candidates revealing about how they’ll handle our nation’s drug policy issues? It’s a crucial question. No matter who ends up in the Oval Office, he or she will have plenty to deal with, including:

  • An epidemic of prescription painkiller and heroin use that has helped make drug overdose the nation’s No. 1 cause of death from injury.
  • Confusion about how to deal with conflicting federal and state laws on medical and recreational marijuana, and questions about whether the country should embrace legalization.
  • A costly legacy of harsh mandatory penalties for drug use that have helped fill our prisons to overflowing and devastated families.

To get a sense of what we might expect from our next commander in chief, we pulled together some of the candidates’ most compelling statements from their campaign websites, from the debates, from their writings and social media posts, and from past reporting about the issues. Although some candidates have been more willing than others to address the issues and talk specifics, all agree that where we are in our nation’s war on drugs is not where we need to be.

Here’s some of what those at the top of the polls have said (in alphabetical order):

JEB BUSH (Republican)

Personal experience informs Jeb Bush’s stance on drugs. His daughter, Noelle, has struggled with substance use and was arrested in 2002 for trying to fill a false prescription. Addiction, he said at a town hall meeting in August, is a “lifetime challenge” that needs a “recovery kind of philosophy.” He has been a vocal advocate of the war on drugs in years past, but his focus now is on tough action against those promoting the drug trade and help for those battling addiction.

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

In a speech in July to the National Urban League, he noted that as Florida governor, “we didn’t want to fill prisons with nonviolent offenders. So we expanded drug courts and prevention programs. I took the view — as I would as president — that real justice in America has got to include restorative justice. … We also went after the real enemy that afflicts our cities — the smugglers, drug cartels and violent criminals that profit from the undoing of so many lives.”

Prevention, education, treatment

“You can’t expect people to deal with their addictions on their own,” Bush has said on the campaign trail. Without getting into fine details about the types of programs he would institute as president, he points to his efforts as governor: increased funding for substance abuse treatment, creation of “prevention coalitions” throughout the state, expanded use of drug courts to get people into treatment and out of the nation’s lockups, and the creation of an “Office of Drug Control and Prevention” to advance education and prevention.

Marijuana

Despite his own admitted youthful marijuana use, Bush had taken a stance against both medical and recreational marijuana use.

Asked about Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, he said: “I thought it was a bad idea, but states ought to have the right to do it.”

He helped defeat a medical marijuana initiative while Florida governor, couching it in business terms: “Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire. Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts.”

BEN CARSON (Republican)

Although the retired neurosurgeon talks of growing up poor in a tough neighborhood where “I saw bullets, drugs and death in the same places I played tag and ball with my friends,” drug policy is not mentioned on his campaign website. He points, however, to the value of education in rising beyond the temptations of the streets.

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

“We’re not doing things the right way. A lot of people that we incarcerate don’t need to be incarcerated.”

However, he takes exception to some of the reforms in drug sentencing proposed by other candidates. “State and federal prison overcrowding is a very real problem. The smart part of the Smarter Sentencing Act [which calls for more leeway in sentencing] focuses on one factor, involving people in our prisons who have been convicted of certain lesser drug offenses and who do not have extensive criminal histories for whom a prison sentence is often not the most effective way to either punish or rehabilitate them. The not-so-smart part of this bill will cut all previously imposed mandatory sentences by 50%, without distinction for the seriousness of the crime or the criminal. This isn’t in the best interest of public safety.”

Prevention, education, treatment

Carson appears to have said little on the campaign trail about addiction and treatment prevention plans.

He has, however, expressed concern about the amenities in prisons making it too easy for people to continue self-destructive actions. “I think that we need to sometimes ask ourselves, ‘Are we creating an environment that is conducive to comfort where a person would want to stay, versus an environment where we maybe provide them an opportunity for rehabilitation but is not a place that they would find particularly comfortable?’ ”

Marijuana

He is strongly against recreational marijuana but sees some benefits to medical marijuana, although he worries that anything that makes access easier will end up harming the country.

In a 2014 interview, he said: “Recognize that marijuana is what’s known as a gateway drug. It tends to be a starter drug for people who move onto heavier duty drugs — sometimes legal, sometimes illegal — I don’t think this is something that we really want for our society.”

CHRIS CHRISTIE (Republican)

Christie has talked of losing a friend to a prescription painkiller addiction, and as New Jersey governor he championed a series of reforms aimed at changing the focus from punishing addicts to helping them recover their place in society. “This is a treatable problem,” he said on a campaign visit to New Hampshire. “And we need to start talking about it like an illness, not like some moral failure.”

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

He calls the war on drugs “in my view, completely a failure.” On his campaign website, he speaks of programs he has helped implement as governor and calls for their expansion nationally, including:

  • Mandatory drug courts for first time, nonviolent drug offenders in all 94 federal districts.
  • One-stop reentry services for ex-offenders so that they can move forward from addiction, find stability and re-enter their communities.

In an essay as part of a 2015 Brennan Center for Justice report, he wrote: “We need to realize that when we keep drug addicts in jail, we ensure that they will be a constant drain on our society. Treatment not only costs us less in the short run, but in the long run it produces contributing members to our society — people who are employed and pay taxes, rather than being in jail and draining taxes.”

Prevention, education, treatment

Christie sees his emphasis on treatment for the addict as part of his “pro-life” agenda that values life at every stage. “I have a simple view on drug policy: Drug addiction is a disease. It can happen to anyone, from any station in life. And it can be treated. Most importantly, every life is an individual gift from God and no life is disposable. We have an obligation to help people reclaim their lives. And since we have the tools to help those with this disease to save their own lives, we should use them. … Treatment is the path to saving lives.”

Marijuana

Christie has said he is not against medical marijuana, but he has also stated that he would enforce federal law against marijuana use.

He is strongly against the recreational use of marijuana, considering it a gateway drug. “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it until January 17 of 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana as president of the United States.”

HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat)

The former secretary of state, senator and first lady advocates a medical approach to drug policy. “Plain and simple, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, not a moral failing — and we must treat it as such.”

In September, she outlined a $10 billion plan that includes five key goals, which she summarized in an opinion piece published in the New Hampshire Union Leader. They are:

  1. Empower communities to prevent drug use among teenagers.
  2. Ensure every person suffering from addiction can obtain comprehensive treatment.
  3. Ensure that all first responders carry naloxone, which can stop overdoses from becoming fatal.
  4. Require healthcare providers to receive training in recognizing substance use disorders and to consult a prescription drug monitoring program before prescribing controlled substances.
  5. Prioritize treatment over prison for low-level and nonviolent drug offenders, so we can end the era of mass incarceration.

What she says about:

The criminal justice system

“It’s time we recognize that our state and federal prisons, where 65% of inmates meet medical criteria for substance use disorders, are no substitute for proper treatment.”

“Measures that I and others have championed to reform arbitrary mandatory minimum sentences, curb racial profiling and restore voting rights for ex-offenders are long overdue. … We should work together to keep more nonviolent drug offenders out of prison and to ensure that we don’t create another “incarceration generation.”

Prevention, education, treatment

“It’s time we recognize that there are gaps in our healthcare system that allow too many to go without care — and invest in treatment.”

“This quiet epidemic of drug addiction must be more widely understood by parents, educators and young people. We must ensure that everyone understands that prescription drugs can be addictive and a gateway to other drugs. We must also give young people opportunities to pursue education, good jobs and a future that does not need to be dulled or muted by the use of substances.”

Marijuana

Historically, Clinton has resisted taking a definitive stance on marijuana, but in 2014 she made these comments to CNN:

On recreational marijuana:

“States are the laboratories of democracy. We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is.”

On medical marijuana:

“I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. I don’t think we’ve done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and who have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances.”

TED CRUZ (Republican)

Though drug policy isn’t mentioned on his campaign website, Cruz is one of a group of GOP and Democratic senators co-sponsoring the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015, which calls for reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug users and couriers, giving judges more sentencing flexibility, and focusing “limited federal resources on the most serious of offenders.”

Cruz is no stranger to addiction. In his book A Time for Truth, Cruz describes losing his older half-sister to a drug overdose. “It was heartbreaking. I loved my sister, and she spent much of her life trapped by the demons of addiction and anger.”

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

“The current draconian mandatory minimum sentences sometimes result in sentencing outcomes that neither fit the crime nor the perpetrator’s unique circumstances. This is especially true for nonviolent drug offenders. Harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes have contributed to prison overpopulation and are both unfair and ineffective relative to the public expense and human costs of years-long incarceration.”

Prevention, education, treatment

Cruz has had more to say about changing the criminal response to drug use than about plans for prevention, treatment or education.

Marijuana

Cruz has changed course from his earlier criticism of President Obama for not enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have approved recreational use. At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, he stated: “I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the laboratories of democracy.’ If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.” His openness appears to extend to medical marijuana as well.

CARLY FIORINA (Republican)

“My husband, Frank, and I buried a child to drug addiction,” the candidate and former business executive said at the September GOP debate. It’s a tragedy that has given the candidate an all-too-personal perspective on the cost of addiction and led her to call for drug policy reform. “The war on drugs has failed. We need a different approach.”

What she says about:

The criminal justice system

“Drug addiction shouldn’t be criminalized. We need to treat it appropriately.”

“We do need criminal justice reform. We have the highest incarceration rates in the world. Two-thirds of the people in our prisons are there for nonviolent offenses, mostly drug related. It’s clearly not working.”

Prevention, education, treatment

We must invest more in the treatment of drug [abuse].”

“There are so many families who have gone through this or are going through this. [Addiction] is an epidemic now in so many parts of our country. … And while, of course, it’s difficult to talk about, I think it’s also very important to talk about. So that families that are suffering through this know that they should not feel ashamed or stigmatized.”

Marijuana

She believes states have the right to make their own rules concerning marijuana, “but we are misleading young people when we tell them marijuana is just like having a beer. It’s not.”

As to medical marijuana, she noted in an interview that she said no when the doctor treating her for cancer mentioned the possibility of using it. “Marijuana is a very complex chemical substance. We don’t understand how it interacts with other drugs. We don’t understand what it does to your body. If we’re going to treat it like a medicine, and many people are benefitted by marijuana as a medicine — I’m OK with that — but then regulate it like a medicine.”

MIKE HUCKABEE (Republican)

The former Arkansas governor, who is also an ordained Southern Baptist minister, believes that we cannot continue on the same path with our jail-centered drug control policy, which he labels a “costly, short-sighted, irresponsible response.” He is a strong proponent of drug courts, which he says were used effectively during his governorship and brought a sharp drop in the recidivism rate.

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

In an essay for the Brennan Center for Justice, he wrote: “An Arkansas prison official once told me that 88% of incarcerated inmates at his prison were there because of a drug or alcohol problem or because they committed a crime in order to get drunk or high. As he astutely observed, we do not have a crime problem, we have a drug and alcohol problem. While those who deal drugs and entice others into enslaving addictions deserve serious time and tough sentences, we lock up many nonviolent drug users, some of whom spend longer periods in prison than they would if they had committed a violent crime. Though many of the efforts to address this problem have brought some measure of sanity to the process — drug treatment as opposed to merely warehousing drug users — we need to do things differently.”

Prevention, education, treatment

“Sexual predators, violent offenders, and dangerous criminals need to be locked up, but we must provide treatment options and real rehabilitation to those who struggle with drug abuse and addiction.”

Families should be teaching their children that there are better options in life than drugs, but in the absence of such family support, Huckabee believes government must step in.

“It grieves me when I think of how much I would rather have those folks in a university than a penitentiary. Maybe if we had been more diligent in their growing up with education programs that appeal to them, community mentoring programs to give them examples of proper adult behavior, and the simple encouragement to believe that their lives could be better at the finish line than they were at the start, things could be different. Most of all, if we had focused on policies to help create stable families and strong fathers, we would have much less of a prison problem.”

After the heroin-related death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, he noted on his Facebook page: “Hipsters mock parents who tell kids, ‘Just say no to drugs.’ But Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a tragic reminder that you not only should say no to drugs, you have to say no the first time, and EVERY time.”

Marijuana

Huckabee supports neither recreational nor medical marijuana use, although he has said he would not prevent states from abiding under their own laws regarding it.

He sees legalization as promoting youth drug use. “Those who argued that legalizing marijuana would result in a boom in tax revenues have some preliminary proof. … But at what cost? The money is earmarked for youth prevention services, substance abuse treatment and public health. But what is a young person supposed to think when the state says, ‘Don’t do drugs … even though everyone around you is … and the same authority figures who tell you it’s bad not only condone it, but are also making a big profit off it?’”

JOHN KASICH (Republican)

The Ohio governor urges treatment and rehabilitation over punishment for those dealing with substance use issues. On his campaign website, he says he “has successfully improved care for those struggling with mental illness and addiction and the working poor.”

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

He believes prisons are overused as holding pens for the addicted and mentally ill. As governor, he signed a bill that required more rehabilitation services in prison and that gave judges discretion to place nonviolent offenders in community-based halfway houses instead of behind bars.

In the first presidential debate, he noted of his state: “We are rehabbing the drug-addicted. Eighty percent of the people in our prisons have addiction problems. We now treat them in the prisons, release them in the community, and the recidivism rate is 10%. And everybody across this country knows that the tsunami of drugs is threatening their very families. So, we’re treating them and getting them on their feet.”

He also supported a bill going after prescription drug “pill mills.”

Prevention, education, treatment

He championed the “Start Talking!” campaign, an outgrowth of his belief that education is key to prevention and that everyone plays a part. “If a young person hears ‘do not do drugs,’ there is a 50% less chance they will ever do it. … I don’t care where you are. You’re in a restaurant? You walk over there and you see those kids. You tell them to stay off the drugs.”

Marijuana

In November, Ohio voters will get to decide if they want to OK both medical and recreational marijuana. Kasich is firmly against the ballot measure and against marijuana use in any form. Legalization, he said, gives the impression that “some drugs are OK but others aren’t. … Why don’t we just say don’t do drugs, period.”

While he supports states’ right, he remains vague on whether as president he would interfere with states that have legalized marijuana. “I would be tempted to say I don’t think we can go and start disrupting what they’ve decided.” He did note, however, that, “I would try to discourage the states from doing it.”

MARTIN O’MALLEY (Democrat)

The former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor has had a front-row seat to the nation’s prescription painkiller and heroin epidemic, which has hit the East Coast hard. “Sadly, many of us are becoming much more expert on the tragedy of heroin overdose deaths in our country because of what’s happened recently,” he said at a rally.

On his campaign website, he outlined 15 goals to “rebuild the American dream.” Among them are reducing overdose deaths by a quarter within five years and reforming the criminal justice system to “save and redeem lives.”

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

“As a nation, our divestment in education, job creation, and healthcare has resulted in some communities turning to law enforcement as a first and last resort — from providing student discipline to addressing addiction and mental illness. Reversing this trend by reinvesting in these areas will relieve our overburdened justice system, and ensure that law enforcement is able to focus on the most violent crimes.”

On his campaign website, he proposes eliminating remaining sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine which “has resulted in vast racial disparities within the justice system” and ending minimum sentencing for low-level drug offenses “while giving judges more flexibility to tailor sentences based on the facts of each case.”

Prevention, education, treatment

On his campaign website, he calls for:

  • “Robust investments in drug treatment,” such as expanding federal grants for drug treatment systems, tripling the number of states eligible for the aid, and requiring more evidence-based treatment for addiction under Medicare and Medicaid.
  • “Robust investments in community mental health infrastructure,” such as getting addiction and mental health treatment to those in correctional facilities, and establishing a system of community-based recovery that includes investments in housing, supported employment and outpatient care.
  • Training and equipping law enforcement to better respond to those who may be dealing with substance use or mental health problems.

Marijuana

If elected president, he wants to declassify marijuana as a Schedule I drug, and he supports the drug for some medical use. But as to legalization: “I’m not there yet,” he said during a recent roundtable with marijuana advocates in Denver.

His thoughts on marijuana have evolved over the years. He decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug as Maryland governor, explaining: “As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety. I now think that [it] is an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health.”

RAND PAUL (Republican)

The U.S. senator and ophthalmologist describes himself on his campaign website as “a fierce advocate against government overreach,” and that includes our national drug response, which he calls “an abysmal failure and a waste of money,” as well as racially unfair. “I want to end the war on drugs because it’s wrong for everybody, but particularly because poor people are caught up in this, and their lives are ruined by it.”

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

He believes the current system can too easily strip rights and property from those involved in even low-level drug use. “We can and must work together to create a criminal justice system that punishes nonviolent offenders without incapacitating them and stripping them of their civil rights.” The first place to start, he says, “is by eliminating mandatory minimum sentences. Few policies have been as deeply flawed or destroyed as many lives.”

Some groups have paid a higher price than others, he notes. “The war on drugs is principally responsible for the wide gap in confidence between minorities and the police. African Americans use drugs at roughly the same rate as whites, but are more than twice as likely as whites to be arrested for drug possession.”

He proposes several changes to judicial policy on his campaign website, including:

Justice Safety Valve Act: Judges can depart from mandatory minimum sentencing laws if they find that it is in the best interests of justice to do so. This would increase judicial discretion and allow judges to make individualized determinations about the proper punishment for defendants.

RESET Act: This bill reclassifies simple possession of controlled substances — very small amounts — as a misdemeanor rather than a low-level felony. It also eliminates the crack-cocaine disparity.

Paul is also one of the co-sponsors of the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015, which aims to restore fairness to federal sentencing.

Prevention, education, treatment

“I’d like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration.”

Paul is part of a bipartisan group that introduced the TREAT Act, which calls for expanding access to specialized treatment for prescription painkiller and heroin addiction. “Government’s solution of locking up people with addiction is not solving the problem. The TREAT Act will remove a roadblock to getting people the help they need to break the cycle of addition and get on a path to recovery.”

Marijuana

Paul favors medical marijuana and has gotten high marks from marijuana advocates for helping sponsor the CARERS act, which would allow expanded research as to its medical uses and prevent states from being punished by the federal government for any medical marijuana programs they might set up.

As to recreational marijuana, he thinks states should be allowed to go their own ways. “I personally believe this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual.”

He also believes marijuana-related businesses should be allowed to use the banking system and advocates for decriminalization and reduced penalties for marijuana use. “I think to put somebody in jail for 10 years for possession of marijuana or sale of marijuana is ridiculous.”

MARCO RUBIO (Republican)

The U.S. senator from Florida doesn’t mention drug policy on his campaign website, but on the campaign trail he has been one of the few candidates to point to positives in the ongoing war on drugs and to caution against “careless weakening of drug laws.”

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

In an essay for the Brennan Center for Justice, he wrote: “There is an emerging consensus that the time for criminal justice reform has come. A spirited conversation about how to go about that reform has begun. Unfortunately, too often that conversation starts and ends with drug policy. That is an important conversation to have. But when we consider changing the sentences we impose for drug laws, we must be mindful of the great successes we have had in restoring law and order to America’s cities since the 1980s drug epidemic destroyed lives, families, and entire neighborhoods. I personally believe that legalizing drugs would be a great mistake and that any reductions in sentences for drug crimes should be made with great care.”

Among those sentenced in the 1980s was Rubio’s brother-in-law, who was convicted of cocaine and marijuana trafficking. Rubio writes of the effect on his family in his memoir An American Son: “I was stunned by the news. Like my parents, I had never suspected Orlando was involved in a criminal enterprise. His arrest and subsequent trial and imprisonment distressed the entire family, but [my sister] Barbara and my parents bore the brunt of the hardships it caused. Even decades later, my sister and mother would be forced to relive the shame of the ordeal.”

Prevention, education, treatment

He also noted in his Brennan Center essay: “Our hearts are broken by stories of individuals and families whose lives have been wrecked by drugs, and we must recommit as a society to helping these souls find a productive path forward. The states have made important strides here, particularly with youthful and first-time offenders. We should continue this work, focusing on evidence-based rehabilitation and recidivism reduction programs. Much of the criminal behavior in America is committed by repeat offenders, and much of it is drug-related. If we are able to break this cycle early, we can change not just the life trajectory of the offenders, but those of the many lives he or she touches. The government, of course, cannot do this alone. Families, faith communities and employers all play indispensable roles.”

Marijuana

Rubio has indicted he wouldn’t rule out medical marijuana: “If it goes through the FDA process and you can come up with a proven medicinal benefit to that substance, I’m open to that.”

Rubio is strongly opposed to recreational use, saying, “I don’t believe there’s a responsible way to recreationally use marijuana.” And while in the past he has said “states can make decisions about what laws they wish to apply within their own borders,” he more recently had this to say: “I believe the federal government needs to enforce federal law, and I think this country already is paying a terrible and high price for the impact that alcohol has had on families, on addiction, on the destruction of marriages, homes, and businesses, and now we’re going to legalize an additional intoxicant. It’s very simple: when you say something is legal, well you’re basically telling people it isn’t that bad.”

BERNIE SANDERS (Democrat)

A focus on social justice strongly influences Sanders’ drug policy proposals. The Vermont senator sums up his philosophy this way: “Millions of lives have been destroyed because people are in jail for nonviolent crimes. For decades, we have been engaged in a failed ‘war on drugs’ with racially biased mandatory minimums that punish people of color unfairly. It is an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy. This must change.”

Where he says about:

The criminal justice system

“We need to ban prisons for profit, which result in an over-incentive to arrest, jail and detain, in order to keep prison beds full.”

In a campaign speech, he linked lack of opportunities to drug use and prison. “If you do not believe that there is a correlation between high youth unemployment and the fact that this country has more people in jail than any other country on Earth, you would be wrong. Now, how does it happen that in this great nation, we have more people in jail than the communist authoritarian country of China, which has over three times our population? And in my view — and I feel this very, very strongly — instead of locking up our young people, maybe it’s time we found jobs for them and education for them. And maybe it’s time we began to rethink the so called war on drugs.”

Prevention, education, treatment

“We need to invest in drug courts and medical and mental health interventions for people with substance abuse problems, so that they do not end up in prison, they end up in treatment.”

On how the heroin epidemic has hit his home state, he notes: “We are unprepared for the epidemic, in terms of our mental health capacity to treat people who need treatment. And one of the problems in Vermont is you have waiting lists of people who want to break the habit, want to break their addiction, and we can’t treat them when they want to do it. So you tell them, come back in six months. Well, in six months, they might not be prepared to take that step.”

Marijuana

He has expressed his support for medical marijuana use but refuses to be rushed concerning his stance on recreational marijuana use. “Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana, and I’m going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done.”

In a later interview, when asked if he would legalize marijuana on a federal level if elected, he replied: “That’s something that we’re looking at right now.”

DONALD TRUMP (Republican)

The businessman/author mentions only two issues on his campaign website: Second Amendment rights and immigration reform. On a personal level, Trump is well known for being vehemently anti-drug. “To this day I’ve never had a cigarette. I’ve never had a glass of alcohol. I won’t even drink a cup of coffee,” he said in a 2004 Esquire interview. It’s a stance he says grew from witnessing his brother’s ultimately fatal struggles with alcohol and cigarettes.

What he says about:

The criminal justice system

In the 1990s, Trump once argued that legalizing all drugs and using the tax money to fund prevention programs was a smarter way to fight the war on drugs. Today, however, Trump has embraced a tough-on-crime stance that disparages criminal justice reforms, which include changes in drug sentencing policies advocated by many of his GOP presidential counterparts. When Trump does mention drugs, it is most commonly in the context of illegal immigrants, whom he has accused of bringing drugs and crime across the border.

Prevention, education, treatment

He’s detailed no specifics regarding addiction prevention or treatment, but he does talk on his campaign website about mental health care, which can be assumed to include help for those struggling with addiction: “Our mental health system is broken. It needs to be fixed. Too many politicians have ignored this problem for too long. … We need to expand our treatment programs.”

Some insight into his mindset can be gleaned from his decision as the past owner of the Miss USA pageant to allow the 2006 winner to enter rehab for substance use rather than lose her crown. “I believe in second chances,” he said.

Marijuana

In an appearance in February before the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump was asked what he thought of Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana. Although states can do what they want on the issue, he said, “I think it’s bad and I feel strongly about that.” Medical marijuana, however, he supports “100%.”

By Kendal Patterson
Follow Kendal on Twitter at @kendalpatterson

There is still hope.

Our licensed addiction experts can help. Call us today for a confidential assessment.

844-875-5609

Get In Touch

If you are interested in learning more about treatment at one of our programs, please contact us by filling out the form below or calling 844-875-5609.