Leading Democratic Presidential Candidates Reject Call To Decriminalize Pot

Philadelphia, PA: Democratic Presidential frontrunners Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barack Obama (D-IL), and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) oppose decriminalizing marijuana so Americans who use pot recreationally would no longer face arrest and imprisonment.

Appearing at this week’s Democratic Presidential debate at Drexel University, all three candidates indicated that they opposed decriminalizing the possession and use of marijuana for adults. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson – who approved statewide legislation earlier this year legalizing the medical use of cannabis – also indicated his opposition to the enactment of broader decriminalization strategies.

Marijuana decriminalization – which prior to Tuesday’s debate had not been discussed by the candidates in a public forum – was one of several drug policy related issues submitted to MSNBC moderator Tim Russert by members of the Philadelphia chapter of NORML.

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) both indicated that they backed decriminalizing pot. “We’re locking up too many people in our system here today,” Dodd said. “We’ve got mandatory minimum sentences that are filling our jails with people who don’t belong there. My idea is to decriminalize [marijuana], reduce that problem here. We’ve gone from 800,000 to 2 million people in our penal institutions in this country.”

Senator Dodd had previously stated that if elected President, “[He] would decriminalize … the statutes … that would incarcerate or severely penalize people for using marijuana.” Representative Kucinich has said that he favors a national drug policy that treats adult marijuana use in a manner similar to alcohol.

Each of the leading Democrat candidates have gone on record to voice their support for respecting the will of states to enact medical marijuana legislation, though only Richardson, Kucinich, and former US Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK) – who was not present in Tuesday’s debate – have said that they support legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at: paul@norml.org. Video of the candidates’ exchange is available online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3iuA7vrudA&NR=1. Additional information regarding the Presidential candidates’ positions on marijuana policy may be found online at: http://www.sendtherightmessage.com or http://www.granitestaters.com.