Thursday, October 2, 2008

McCain on Drugs

Full speed ahead on the Drug War.

One issue largely missing in action during the presidential campaign has been the Drug War, and all the policy implications for addiction treatment that go with it. Our thanks go out to OnTheIssues blog for compiling the admittedly skimpy record of public statements about drug policy by both candidates. In this post, we examine the on-the-record views of Republican candidate John McCain.

In his long career in the U.S. Senate, John McCain’s support for the Drug War has never wavered. Campaigning for president in 2000, McCain’s positions were the most hawkish of the four major candidates, the Boston Globe reported. “He wants to increase penalties for selling drugs, supports the death penalty for drug kingpins, favors tightening security to stop the flow of drugs into the country, and wants to restrict availability of methadone for heroin addicts.”

This latter position was embodied in the “Addiction Free Treatment Act” that McCain introduced in the Senate in 1999, which called for defunding any drug program that used methadone, unless the program followed a restrictive set of guidelines.

McCain has criticized the former Clinton administration for going “AWOL on the war on drugs,” and has pushed tirelessly for greater military assistance to drug-exporting nations like Columbia.

In more recent activity, Senator McCain sponsored a a 2005 bill, “The Clean Sports Act,” mandating drug testing in all major professional sports leagues. And in 2006, McCain signed on to the “Safe Streets Act Amendment,” which called for federal grants to Indian tribes to fight methamphetamine addiction.

This year, “McCain met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon to discuss immigration, trade and the recently passed Merida Initiative, a $400 million U.S. aid package to help Mexico fight an increasingly bloody drug war that has claimed more than 1,800 lives this year.”

“Drugs is a big, big problem in America,” McCain said in a fact-finding trip to Columbia in July. “The continued flow of drugs from Colombia through Mexico into the United States is still one of our major challenges for all Americans.”

McCain’s response last year to a New Hampshire police officer’s question about the failure of the Drug War does not bode well for the prospects of responsible changes in drug awareness and addiction treatment in a McCain administration: “Look, I've heard the comparison between drugs and alcohol. I think most experts would say that in moderation, one or two drinks of alcohol does not have an effect on one's judgment, mental acuity, or their physical abilities. I think most experts would say that the first ingestion of drugs leads to mind-altering and other experiences, other effects, and can lead over time to serious, serious problems."

A search of the McCain-Palin campaign website for the term “drug war” came up empty.

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