First Look: The Drug Policies of 2016’s Presidential Hopefuls

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In 2008, Barack Obama made history by becoming the first African-American man to be elected a president. This was a significant period of time for another reason as well, namely the economic crisis that swept the nation—and the globe—at the end of the Bush administration and plunged the United States into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. With the subsequent 2012 election, Obama continued his presidency by winning his second, and final, the presidential term while the pressure continued to answer millions and millions of Americans’ economic prayers.

Over the course of Obama’s presidency, we’ve seen a number of policy changes and advocacy that has, more or less, made very little difference. Whether you’re red or blue, the fact remains that despite President Obama’s efforts, the middle and lower classes have continued to suffer throughout Obama’s presidency. In fact, rates of unemployment and poverty have increased—especially among minority groups such as African-Americans and Hispanics, both of whom happen to have been some of Obama’s biggest supporters over the course of his presidency—while rates of federal aid have risen in an effort to supplement the nation’s rather disheartening financial state.

Meanwhile, the controversial Affordable Care Act, also known colloquially as “Obamacare,” has imposed laws that obligate citizens to retain health coverage of some form while stripping many of the limitations that providers imposed in order to discriminate against those individuals with preexisting conditions who would require more frequent and more expensive treatments. Perhaps most importantly, the Affordable Care Act allowed mental health and addiction treatment services to be covered under most health plans, which meant that one of the greatest obstacles that prevented many addicts from receiving treatment for addiction—the prohibitive cost of addiction treatment—would no longer be preventing individuals from seeking recovery through rehabilitative services.

Whether you’ve been pleased or disappointed by the Obama administration, we’re coming to the end of an era and must begin looking forward. With next year’s presidential election ebbing ever closer, potential candidate and presidential hopefuls have been campaigning for our votes by making known their political views, identifying the topics about which they are most passionate, providing commentary on the previous eight years, and discussing legislature that we may or may not need. At this point in the game, there are a number of names in the air as contenders, but it’s too soon to know for sure which will be on the ballots when it comes time for the primary elections.

What’s more, the candidates represent quite a variety of individuals, from CEO-level executives to the expected political officeholders to even a retired neurosurgeon. However, it’s as good a time as any to look into the stances that some of the more pronounced and most-supported presidential hopefuls are taking when it comes to drug policies. Here’s what you can expect from these candidates. Which one will be the next President of the United States?

Hillary Clinton (D), Former Secretary of State

hillary clinton

This won’t be Hillary Clinton’s first rodeo. Many of us remember Clinton running against Obama to be the official Democratic candidate in 2008’s presidential election. Widely considered the Democratic frontrunner and a shoe-in for Democratic candidacy, Clinton is adopting a more liberal stance this time around in an effort to garner the support of voters who elected Obama in the past two elections. Hillary Clinton popularized the term “ordinary people,” which she uses in lieu of the broadly-defined “middle class” with its loose connotations. Clinton is known for her views on education and supports universal preschool, making preschool available to all families. Additionally, Clinton wants to incorporate same-sex marriage in the Constitution, which opposes statements she made earlier in her career, but is more congruent with the views of Obama’s supporters, and also wants to offer undocumented immigrants a clear path to citizenship.

In terms of drug policy, Clinton has expressed the need to divert addicts from the legal system to the treatments that they need. Rather than merely sentencing alcohol and drug addicts to lengthy prison sentences, Clinton believes that non-violent drug offenders should be diverted to addiction treatments and “drug courts.” Clinton has voiced her opinion on medical marijuana and legalization, saying that while she approves of medical marijuana use in appropriate cases, recreational legalization should be left to state-level jurisdiction. For what it’s worth though Clinton was definitely a flower child, she played it straight by staying far away from alcohol and any drugs throughout her formidable years.

Ted Cruz (R), United States Senator of Texas

ted cruz

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was the first to announce his candidacy, making his official declaration on March 23rd via social media. Known for his conservative politics and for taking a traditionally Republican stance on most issues, Cruz is an advocate of national security, highly critical of “Obamacare” and considers the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, believes global warming to be a natural phenomenon that’s unrelated to human activity, doesn’t support recognition of same-sex marriage at the federal level, and doesn’t support abortion unless a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life. In terms of drugs, Cruz is supportive of the war on drugs, disagreeing with Obama’s move toward decreased enforcement of certain drugs laws and criticizing the decriminalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington despite admitting to previous experimentation with marijuana himself. Interestingly, the fact that Cruz was born in Canada has led to certain eligibility concerns, making it yet to be seen whether he’ll actually be on the ballot when it comes time for next year’s presidential election.

Rand Paul (R), United States Senator of Kentucky


You probably remember Ron Paul’s bid for presidential candidacy against Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. His son, Rand Paul, is a Kentucky Senator and announced that he was campaigning for Republican candidacy on April 7th of this year. Although Rand Paul identifies himself as a Tea Party follower with social conservative and libertarian conservative views, who advocates for smaller and more controlled government, Paul also claims not to be beholden to any singular party and instead takes the most practical and needed ideas from both sides of the political coin.

Paul’s political positions include a reduction of government spending, supports alternative energies while opposing energy subsidy, opposes the PATRIOT Act and controversially considers TSA unconstitutional harassment, state-level jurisdiction for same-sex marriage, repeatedly voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, restoring voting privileges to felons five years after receiving a conviction, eliminating the federal Department of Education and returning educational control to the community level, and would like to see “Obamacare” repealed.

In terms of drug policy, Rand Paul has is considered “the first top-tier presidential candidate from either party to make marijuana reform a major campaign issue.” In fact, unlike his father Paul recently supported federal legalization of medical marijuana, is highly critical of the war on drugs, has proposed elimination of a mandatory minimum sentence for nonviolent drug-related convictions, and generally believes that many of the laws regarding drugs, particularly marijuana, are too harsh and that addiction requires diversion to treatment rather than punitive repercussions. Paul’s politics seem to appeal to a quite diverse coalition of voters that consists of his father’s supporters, Tea Party Republicans, conservatives, college-age conservative voters, African Americans, as well as other small and niche groups to which he’s been paying special attention in his campaign thus far.

If you or someone you love is currently suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs, the Palm Beach Institute can help to end your suffering. Our knowledgeable specialists can match those suffering from addiction to the treatment programs that will deliver them unto a life of recovery and health. Call us today.



Staff Writer

The Palm Beach Institute employs a diverse staff of writers that share a common passion for helping those who are struggling with substance abuse find the care they need. With years of experience in the substance abuse treatment industry and decades of experience in writing and research, our team of writers constantly strive to present accurate and helpful information that is easily digestible and encourages people to seek help.

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