Democratic Party Platform
While you may not notice much difference in quality of drug policy viewpoints between individual politicians on both sides of the aisle, the contrast between the Republican Party Platform
and the Democratic Party Platform is pretty stark. The full Democratic Party Platform is available to read online
. Let’s start with the most outstanding passage, given here completely:
Reforming our Criminal Justice System
Democrats are committed to reforming our criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration. Something is profoundly wrong when almost a quarter of the world’s prison population is in the United States, even though our country has less than five percent of the world’s population. We will reform mandatory minimum sentences and close private prisons and detention centers. Research and evidence, rather than slogans and sound bites, must guide criminal justice policies. We will rebuild the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Across the country, there are police officers inspiring trust and confidence, honorably doing their duty, deploying creative and effective strategies, and demonstrating that it is possible to prevent crime without relying on unnecessary force. They deserve our respect and support, and we should learn from those examples and build on what works. We will work with police chiefs to invest in training for officers on issues such as de-escalation and the creation of national guidelines for the appropriate use of force. We will encourage better police-community relations, require the use of body cameras, and stop the use of weapons of war that have no place in our communities. We will end racial profiling that targets individuals solely on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin, which is un-American and counterproductive. We should report national data on policing strategies and provide greater transparency and accountability. We will require the Department of Justice to investigate all questionable or suspicious police-involved shootings, and we will support states and localities who help make those investigations and prosecutions more transparent, including through reforming the grand jury process. We will assist states in providing a system of public defense that is adequately resourced and which meets American Bar Association standards. And we will reform the civil asset forfeiture system to protect people and remove perverse incentives for law enforcement to “police for a profit.” Instead of investing in more jails and incarceration, we need to invest more in jobs and education, and end the school-to-prison pipeline. We will remove barriers to help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully re-enter society by “banning the box,” expanding reentry programs, and restoring voting rights. We think the next President should take executive action to ban the box for federal employers and contractors, so applicants have an opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications before being asked about their criminal records. The “war on drugs” has led to the imprisonment of millions of Americans, disproportionately people of color, without reducing drug use. Whenever possible, Democrats will prioritize prevention and treatment over incarceration when tackling addiction and substance use disorder. We will build on effective models of drug courts, veterans’ courts, and other diversionary programs that seek to give nonviolent offenders opportunities for rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration. Because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of “Schedule 1″ federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization. We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize it or provide access to medical marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact in terms of arrest rates for African Americans that far outstrip arrest rates for whites, despite similar usage rates. We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment. It has no place in the United States of America. The application of the death penalty is arbitrary and unjust. The cost to taxpayers far exceeds those of life imprisonment. It does not deter crime. And, exonerations show a dangerous lack of reliability for what is an irreversible punishment. We have been inspired by the movements for criminal justice that directly address the discriminatory treatment of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians to rebuild trust in the criminal justice system.
For politicians, that’s pretty outstanding. Sure, I might quibble a bit with the reliance on drug courts and forced treatment, but overall, this is really excellent. When you get to the section on combating drug and alcohol addiction, at least the Democratic Party Platform has a plan of sorts, as opposed to the Republican Platform.
Combating Drug and Alcohol Addiction
We must confront the epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction, specifically the opioid crisis and other drugs plaguing our communities, by vastly expanding access to prevention and treatment, supporting recovery, helping community organizations, and promoting better practices by prescribers. The Democratic Party is committed to assisting the estimated 20 million people struggling with addiction in this country to find and sustain healthy lives by encouraging full recovery and integration into society and working to remove common barriers to gainful employment, housing, and education. We will continue to fight to expand access to care for addiction services, and ensure that insurance coverage is equal to that for any other health conditions. We think it is time for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor, and state regulatory agencies to fully implement the protections of the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act of 2008—which means that American medical insurers, including the federal government, will need to disclose how they make their medical management decisions. We should also do more to educate our youth, as well as their families, teachers, coaches, mentors, and friends, to intervene early to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. We should help state and local leaders establish evidence-based, age-appropriate, and locally-tailored prevention programs. These programs include school-based drug education programs that have been shown to have meaningful effects on risky behavior; community-based peer mentorship and leadership programs; and after-school activities that deter drug use and encourage life skills.
It’s not a particularly good plan. The focus on pushing and funding treatment without doing something to improve the kind of treatment we offer in this country is likely to cause more damage than good. At least there is a nod to “evidence-based” programs in the prevention section, something that hasn’t really been part of what we do federally. When it comes to international efforts, the platform goes on at length to discuss all sorts of things, but tellingly, has very little emphasis on pursuing an exported drug war – about the only mention is this brief throw-away bit in the section on the Americas:
We will bolster democratic institutions, promote economic opportunity and prosperity, and tackle the rise of drugs, transnational crime, and corruption.
Of course, a platform doesn’t necessarily translate into policy or actual action, but it is something that can be pointed to to attempt to influence lawmakers. And this one definitely could be worse.