Few of America’s public policies are as destructive and inhumane as those on drug addiction and crime.
Our drug policies throw hundreds of thousands of people in jail for nonviolent crimes like selling or possessing plant material. Even a brief prison sentence can expose someone to violent crime or make it impossible to get a job. Such sentences have ruined the lives of tens of thousands of nonviolent, peaceful Americans. I’ll support a widespread overhaul of our sentencing and imprisonment systems, so the lives of nonviolent young Americans aren’t systematically ruined.
So many young Americans have been stuck with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but no Wall Street crooks went to jail for causing the 2008 crisis which cost millions of jobs and trillions of dollars– an outrage which ranks among the highest of injustices in recent history
Tackling the Addiction Epidemic
The Growing Opioid Crisis
Over the last two decades, America, and Appalachia in particular, has been slowly stricken with the healthcare crisis of drug addiction. Much of this addiction is due to use and abuse of opioid painkiller medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and tramadol. When these drugs were first developed and marketed in the early 1990’s, the drug companies actually claimed that they were safe and nonaddictive painkillers. Thirty years later, we all know these claims to be tremendous lies, and our rural communities are now paying the price.
Meanwhile, hundreds of crooked drug companies and pharmacies continue to distribute millions of highly-addictive prescription opioid pills every week. Thousands of Americans who started using these painkillers after injuries and surgeries have ended up addicted to opioids; and when the prescriptions run out, many end up seeking harder and more dangerous street drugs like heroin and fentanyl just to cope with their increasing addiction.
It’s time to dump the idea that addiction is a character flaw or a weakness and start treating it like the medical illness that it actually is. We need to significantly expand drug courts and mental health interventions for our fellow citizens who struggle with addiction, so they can begin genuine paths to sobriety. The wealthiest country on earth should never accept a system that throws its ill and addicted citizens into prison.
The lack of access to regular and affordable healthcare has made the opioid crisis even worse. Oftentimes, people go to the doctor at the initial stages of pain and injury, but cannot afford to continue their pain treatment with regular checkups. This starts off the dangerous path toward self-medication and buying drugs off the street. In countless cases, innocent pain management programs have lead toward downward spirals of addiction.
Healing the Addicted and Supporting Sobriety
That’s why my healthcare reform plan, which is available above, is so important. Under my “Americare” plan, US citizens would be able to see a doctor whenever they need to without worrying about costs or financial burdens. People in pain management programs should have unlimited access to healthcare professionals, who can safely and gradually work them off opioid painkillers.
We also need to significantly increase funding to collect better data on opioid prescriptions, heroin arrests, overdoses, and deaths. The current data collection efforts from states and the federal government is woefully inadequate. Researchers need these data to be accurate and timely in order to tackle this crisis, especially given how fast it can evolve and destroy lives.
While we already have effective prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction, these strategies are highly underutilized across the United States. We need to expand and fund improved education of healthcare providers in managing pain and prescribing opioids appropriately.
I support wider availability and adoption of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, which research has shown to be a lifesaver to people who use opioids, their families, and potential bystanders, and extensive implementation of other evidence-based treatment strategies. Naloxone, like other patented drugs, is only as expensive as it is because the US government has granted its manufacturer a monopoly in the form of a patent. By modernizing our patent policies towards drugs and medical devices, as described in my “Americare” plan, we could significantly reduce the costs of life-savings drugs like Naloxone, so money is never a consideration when someone’s life is on the line.
I also want to drastically expand the availability of proven treatments like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These drugs have been proven to help people who are trying to get clean and avoid relapses, but unfortunately the stigma attached to these treatments has prevented their wider implementation.
These medications could help many people recover from opioid addiction, but they remain highly underutilized. Overcoming the misunderstandings that prevent wider adoption of these treatments will be a crucial step in tackling this epidemic of addiction.
Incarceration and Drug Policy
Ending the Disastrous War on Drugs
Our drug policies throw hundreds of thousands of people in jail for nonviolent crimes like selling or possessing plant material. Even a brief prison sentence can expose someone to violent crime or make it impossible to get a job. Such sentences have ruined the lives of tens of thousands of nonviolent, peaceful Americans.
So many young Americans have been stuck with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but no Wall Street crooks went to jail for causing the 2008 financial and economic crisis which cost millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. These Wall Street crooks stole large sums money from American citizens – and this outrage ranks among the highest of injustices in our modern era.
I support removing marijuana from the list of federally prohibited drugs, and allowing legal marijuana businesses full participation in the banking system. The Department of Justice, DEA, and FinCEN should not continue to waste resources on enforcing pointless and outdated marijuana laws.
A More Compassionate and Humane Justice System
The U.S. prison population in 1970 was just above 327,000. The current prison population is over 2 million. Furthermore, while a white male has a 1 in 17 chance of ending up behind bars, for a black male, it is 1 in 3.
I’ll support a widespread overhaul of our sentencing and imprisonment systems, so the lives of nonviolent young Americans aren’t systematically ruined. This includes standing against “three-strikes laws” and mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that interfere with Constitutional rights and legal processes.
For too long, prosecutors and judges have been all to eager to jail men and women for the pettiest of crimes. It is an international embarrassment that the US puts more of its citizens behind bars than any other country on earth. Even China, with a population three times as large as ours, an unelected government, and no Constitutional rights to due processes and fair trial, doesn’t jail as many of its people as we do.
It is morally offensive that we have prisons run by for-profit corporations all over the country. Imprisonment, to the extent it is appropriate, is a public necessity, and should never be considered a profitable enterprise for any business. A profit motive in the prison system makes no economic sense, and has contributed to America’s sky-high imprisonment rate.
Private prisons are also notorious for overcrowding, poor hygiene and cleanliness, inmate abuse, and immigrant exploitation. We Americans are humane and compassionate people, so we must end this private prison racket.