Politics

Jim Webb Has The Most Progressive Drug Approach Of Any Candidate

On Thursday, former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb became the fifth Democrat to enter into the ring of presidential hopefuls and the 19th to enter the overall race. 

"I understand the odds," said Webb, who is largely considered a long-shot candidate, "particularly in today's political climate where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money[.]" 

For a relative back burner candidate, however, Webb has some big ideas. Speaking Tuesday at the National Sheriff's Association Conference in Baltimore, Webb hinted at his support for decriminalizing or legalizing drug use, making him by far the most progressive candidate so far on the issue of drug policy.  

"There have got to be better ways for us to approach the issues of drug use in America," said Webb, in reference to the soaring numbers of non-violent drug offenders locked in prison. "One of the most fascinating changes in our society in my adult lifetime has been the approach towards cigarette smoking. If you think about this, we didn't make cigarettes illegal. We just got the information out there and educated people about the potential harm. ...And that is actually a success of education regarding your health more than punitive law per se. And there have to be similar approaches when it comes to drug use."   

According to Tom Angell, founder and chairman of the Marijuana Majority, Webb's approach, or the one he intimated Tuesday in front of a large group of law enforcement personnel, represented how drug policy politics have evolved in recent years. "The American experience with tobacco shows that a successful public health approach to drugs doesn't involve handcuffs and jail cells," Angell said. 

Webb's stance, Angell explained, could be an indicator of a political landscape where radical approaches to drug policy would be perhaps more normalized. "Polling now shows that most Americans think the drug war is a failure and support legalizing marijuana. I expect to see more politicians catching on and saying things like this during this election cycle," Angell said. 

According to a recent Pew poll, 63 percent of Americans favor ending mandatory prison sentences for drug law violations, and nearly 70 percent think the government should spend more time focusing on providing treatment plans for serious users of drugs like cocaine and heroin. Only 26 percent think the focus should be on prosecuting those people.

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