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Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is under fire on social media for telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace that he supports decriminalizing all drugs, not just marijuana. No, as far as the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., is concerned, possession of hard drugs like meth and heroin also has to be decriminalized. Or at least not punished by jailing those in possession of the substances.
“Mayor, you not only want to decriminalize marijuana,” an apparently stunned Chris Wallace told Mayor Pete this weekend, “you want to decriminalize all drug possession. You say that the better answer is […] treatment, not incarceration. But isn’t the fact that it’s illegal to have, to possess, meth and heroin, doesn’t that at least in some way, the fact that it’s illegal, act as some deterrent to actually trying it in the first place?” Wallace asked.
“Well, I think the main thing we have to focus on is where you have distribution and the kind of harm that’s done there,” Buttigieg answered. “Yeah, of course it is important that it remain illegal…”
“But,” Wallace pointed out, “you would decriminalize it so it wouldn’t be illegal.”
“Possession,” Mayor Pete answered, “should not be dealt with through incarceration.”
Wallace: “But your view would say that possession of heroin is not illegal.”
Mayor Pete: “Is not going to be dealt with through incarceration.”
In other words, he tried to reframe the issue, or at least pretend that Wallace was wrong. His stance is more nuanced. One problem, as Wallace pointed out: “But your website, it says ‘decriminalize it.’ It would not be illegal.”
“Yes,” Buttigieg admitted at long last. “Or it could be a misdemeanor.”
“The point is,” he continued, “not the legal niceties” (which are rather important one would think when talking about whether something should result in a 20-year prison sentence, no punishment at all, or something in between). “The point is that we have learned that through forty years of a failed war on drugs that criminalizing addiction doesn’t work. Not only that, the incarceration does more harm than the offense that it’s intended to deal with,” he said.
Since I am a stickler for “niceties,” I decided to take a look at Buttigieg’s website myself. And, yes, Buttigieg was actually telling the truth. What it says there is this:
On the federal level, eliminate incarceration for drug possession, reduce sentences for other drug offenses and apply these reductions retroactively, and legalize marijuana and expunge past convictions.
So, indeed, according to Buttigieg’s plans, it could be either legal or a misdemeanor.
On Twitter and elsewhere, conservative critics have used this part of Buttigieg’s plans to go after him — and aggressively so.
However, as a libertarian, I can’t help but agree with Buttigieg on this. The current punishments for drug-related “crimes” are insane. Entire prisons are filled with people who decided to put something the government doesn’t approve of in their bodies. How in the world is that any of the government’s business? Smoke, inject… whatever. It’s bad for you, true. Churches, parents, and charities should warn against it, also true. But the government? No. Get. Out. Of. People’s. Bodies.
What’s more, the “drug-hawk” argument doesn’t even make sense. We are told that mere possession of drugs has to be illegal because drugs are not only bad for you, they also make you addicted, which means it’s extremely difficult to stop using them once you start.
OK. But wait. Doesn’t that make drug-users victims rather than aggressors (of some kind or another)? If so, why in the world would you want to punish victims?
Lastly, even if you’re a hawk on this issue, it’s not overly difficult to grasp the difference between possessing drugs and selling them. If you just can’t help yourself and feel like you have to criminalize something about drugs, it would make more sense to punish dealers rather than their addicted, often nearly broke customers.
Buttigieg’s critics are undoubtedly right that this will come back to bite him in the… Buttigieg in November if he does end up the Democrat nominee. That doesn’t mean that he’s wrong though.
Oh, one last remark: it is rather rich that this is coming from a guy who wants to use the full power of the federal government on other issues, though. Like his fellow Democrats, Buttigieg’s economic policies are almost socialist. It’s rather entertaining that he’s only in favor of personal rights when it comes to drugs.