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March 10, 2016

"Make No Mistake: Hillary Clinton is a Drug Warrior"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable commentary authored by Romain Bonilla that I just came across on the Marijuana Politics website.  Here are excerpts:

Hillary Clinton’s record on the War on Drugs sets her apart from other the other candidates — and not in a good way.  From her criminal justice agenda as First Lady to her foreign policies as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has proven herself to be one of the greatest drug warriors of our generation.  At a time when two-thirds of Americans support ending the War on Drugs, it’s crucial for her record on the issue to be brought to light.

Over the course of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Hillary Clinton publicly supported tough-on-crime criminal justice reforms that escalated and emboldened the War on Drugs. As First Lady, Hillary Clinton pushed for the largest crime bill in the history of the United States: the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.  This 1994 crime bill called for 100,000 more police officers, provided billions of dollars of funding to prison construction, and ramped up the use of mandatory minimum sentences. This law became a signature accomplishment of Bill Clinton’s presidency....

Hillary Clinton’s involvement with the War on Drugs didn’t stop there.  As Secretary of State, Clinton waged the War on Drugs abroad. Under Hillary Clinton’s leadership, the State Department fueled the Mexican Drug War by funding efforts to combat drug trafficking.  Through its Mérida Initiative, Clinton’s State Department hired American defense contractors to take part in the conflict and sold billions worth of weapons to Mexico — leading it to become one of the world’s top purchasers of U.S. military arms and equipment.  Over the course of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, the Mexican Drug War spiraled into chaos, killing over 160,000 people and displacing millions of others.

Worse still: As Clinton’s State Department gave billions in drug war aid to Mexico, it turned a blind eye to the widespread human rights abuses perpetrated by the country’s government. Even as the United Nations acknowledged that Mexican authorities were involved in kidnappings and disappearances, Clinton’s State Department continued to support the offensive.

Now aiming for the presidency, in the Democratic race against Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton describes herself as a progressive leader who will end mass incarceration. As she campaigns for the Democratic nomination, Clinton appears to have “evolved” on issues of drug policy, and gives lip-service to some of the things drug policy reformers have been saying for years.  In a January debate, for instance, she stressed the importance of treating addiction as a health issue rather than a crime, hinting at an understanding of the failures of the drug war.

While Hillary Clinton is willing to speak vaguely against the War on Drugs, she refuses to embrace meaningful reforms to current drug policies.  While most Americans agree that marijuana should be legal, Clinton supports rescheduling it to Schedule II, the same category as cocaine and methamphetamine.  This proposal would do little to end the War on Drugs, but would facilitate research on medical marijuana and allow pharmaceutical companies to sell cannabinoid drugs.

Hillary Clinton’s drug policies are completely in line with those of the wealthy special interests that fund her campaign, like the private prison lobby and Big Pharma.  Under Clinton’s marijuana policy, users would still be prosecuted for mere possession (as is the case for cocaine and methamphetamine users), but drug companies would get a free pass to profit off of marijuana’s medicinal value.

This position on marijuana policy is certainly not enough to redeem Clinton’s record of tough-on-crime legislation and drug warmongering abroad. Though she didn’t declare it, Hillary Clinton has been a champion of the War on Drugs.  Her policies have sacrificed millions of lives to the failed ideal of a drug-free America and her contribution to mass incarceration haunts this nation to this day.  Viewed as a whole, Hillary Clinton’s record reveals her to be a staunch drug warrior — and if she won’t push for meaningful reforms now, it’s unlikely she’ll ever get around to it.

March 10, 2016 at 07:16 PM | Permalink


The difference between the authoritarianism of Trump and that of Clinton is not one of substance but of style. She speaks softly but carries a big stick, he's all brash and bluster. But in the end it is the same impulse.

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 10, 2016 8:17:25 PM

A Google news search found 25 results for that article or reference to it. All were sourced as Marijuana Politics. They probably sent you the link, Professor.

Pot people are usually libertarian, and libertarians are usually conservative, and conservatives are usually pro police state. How did that happen? How did they start smoking pot and learn to love The Man? Because they want to let all the pot people out of jails and prisons and put everyone else in there. That's how. Or it could be a front group. Or it could be right. I don't care enough to dig any further.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 10, 2016 10:47:11 PM

Of course, the Merida Initiative was started under the Bush Administration, and Clinton was working for President Obama as Secretary of State, so it is a bit rich to accuse her of being solely responsible for the policy. And total US assistance to Mexico generally runs in the low hundreds of millions a year, so it is hard to see how Clinton's State Department gave Mexico "billions" for the drug war. And Bernie Sanders only came around to supporting marijuana legalization after he began his run for president, showing he too is only "evolving" -- and has everyone forgotten that he voted for the 1994 Crime Bill (as did virtually everyone else in Congress)? But let's not let facts get in the way of anything. . .

Posted by: DHMCarver | Mar 11, 2016 9:58:54 AM

Billions for defense. Not one cent for tribute. Not two cents for weed.

-- Boss Tweed.

Posted by: BarkinDog | Mar 11, 2016 10:33:06 AM

"How did they start smoking pot and learn to love The Man? Because they want to let all the pot people out of jails and prisons and put everyone else in there."

And know you know why I am so skeptical of criminal justice reform. It is reform in the same sense that musical chairs is an example of reform.

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 11, 2016 11:20:19 AM

Sounds like our choices are Hillary or Trump. Boy, cant we do any better.

Hillary is the most seasoned of all of them. But, but, really trust her or like her record.

She could win the wicked witch of the north contest for Wizard of Oz, hands down.

On top of it all, shes a Drug War Monger. Oh well, lets see where the chips fall.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Mar 11, 2016 12:30:36 PM

I'm interested in whether it's better to vote for Trump or vote for Clinton, if this happened to be your defining issue. Clinton has a long record of being a drug warrior. But Trump is more harsh on crime in general, even more than Clinton. So is it this general harsh stance a worse sign for drug policy, if there's a chance Trump might make an exception for drugs? Or is Clinton worse?

Posted by: random | Mar 12, 2016 1:46:21 PM

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