Will Our Next President Walk the Walk on Drug Reform?
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Will Our Next President Walk the Walk on Drug Reform?


Since mid-2008, there have been more deaths in the US from drug overdoses—most linked to heroin and narcotics—than car accidents. And between 2000 and 2015, the total number of deaths from drug use has more than doubled. Fortunately, presidential hopefuls from both sides of the aisle are going on record about the problem on the campaign trail.

End the Stigma

Hillary Clinton, who’s pushing against incarceration for non-violent drug offenses, spoke up at an appearance in Mason City, Iowa.

“When I started thinking about this campaign, I did not believe I would be standing in your living room talking about the drug abuse problem, the mental health problem and the suicide problem,” she said. “But I am now convinced I have to talk about it. I have to do everything I can in this campaign to raise it, to end the stigma against talking about it.”

Clinton says it’s a problem that can’t be “swept under the rug” or “wished away” anymore. And she’s right. We’re in a state of emergency, and throwing people in jail for drug offenses doesn’t seem to be doing a bit of good.

A Governor’s Tale

Notable right-winger Chris Christie, the not-so-slim GOP governor of New Jersey, veered away from his typical crackdown-on-weed mantra in a speech at the New Hampshire treatment facility Farum Center, relaying the story of a friend from law school who was prescribed painkillers for a back injury and wound up with a full-blown narcotic addiction.

“One Sunday morning, I got a phone call that they found him in a hotel room with an empty bottle of Percocet and a bottle of vodka,” Christie said. “And he was gone.”

Christie now believes the current focus on incarceration in the war on drugs has failed big time. Instead of throwing drug users behind bars, the governor is advocating for more treatment. It’s possible he flip-flopped from his former hardline stance because, with the public now favoring treatment over incarceration, it’s smart politics.

Yes We Can?

Anyone who’s watched the opening episode of House of Cards knows politicians use non-divisive issues to boost their popularity. With the majority of Americans supporting decriminalization of non-violent drug offenses, it makes sense that candidates from the left and right are highlighting the issue as they go out and rub elbows with the common folk of the USA.

But whether the next occupant of the White House will push for budget increases to fund treatment programs, education and prevention for the masses is a question that remains to be answered.

Let’s hope they put the taxpayer’s money where their mouth is.

Photo courtesy of Marc Nozell (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.