Buttigieg Pledges to Decriminalize Heroin & Meth Possession if Elected President
Democrat presidential candidate doubles down on vows of no jail time for drug possession
Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has doubled down on his pledge to decriminalize possession of hard drugs such as heroin and meth if elected president.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, says his administration would not send anyone to prison for drug possession, instead offering a vague plan wherein they will seek treatment services.
Speaking to Chris Wallace during an interview on Fox News Sunday, Buttigieg reiterated that he will, as president, decriminalize all drug possession.
"Mayor, you not only want to decriminalize marijuana, you want to decriminalize all drug possession," Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace said.
"You say the better answer is treatment, not incarceration."
"Isn't the fact that it's illegal to have, to possess meth and heroin, doesn't that at least in some way, the fact that it's illegal act as some deterrent to trying it in the first place?" Wallace asked.
"I think what we need to focus on is where you have distribution," Buttigieg said.
"Possession would not be dealt with through incarceration."
Wallace points out to Buttigieg that his website says he wants all drugs to be decriminalized.
Buttigieg stood by the statement but acknowledged that drug possession could also be downgraded to a misdemeanor, a class of offense usually not punished with prison time.
He insisted that jailing drug users "shows a profound failure in our country's mental health and addiction treatment system."
"The point is not the legal niceties," Buttigieg said.
"The point is that we have learned through 40 years of a failed war on drugs that criminalizing addiction does not work.
"Not only that, the incarceration does more harm than the offense that it's intended to deal with."
There were roughly 67,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018, the second-highest figure on record, according to recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control.
These deaths are largely driven by the synthetic opioid fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, all of which Buttigieg would legalize or decriminalize possession of.
The exchange went as follows:
WALLACE: You not only want to decriminalize marijuana, you want to decriminalize all drug possession. You say that the better answer … is rather treatment, not incarceration. But isn’t the fact that it’s illegal to have, possess meth and heroin, doesn’t that in some way — the fact that it’s illegal — act as a deterrent to actually trying it in the first place.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think the main thing that we should focus on is distribution and the harm that’s done there. Yes, of course it’s important that it remain illegal.
WALLACE: But you would decriminalize it, so it wouldn’t be illegal.
BUTTIGIEG: Possession should not be dealt with through incarceration.
WALLACE: But you would say that possession is not going to be illegal.
BUTTIGIEG: Is not going to be dealt with through incarceration.
WALLACE: But your website says decriminalize.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, or it could be a misdemeanor. The point is, not the legal niceties, the point is we have learned through 40 years of a failed war on drugs that criminalizing addiction doesn’t work. Not only that, the incarceration does more harm than the offense it’s intended to deal with. This is not saying that these substances are okay, it’s saying that when somebody develops that kind of addiction, throwing them in jail or being in a situation where jail is the closest thing they’ll ever get to in-patient treatment, shows a profound failure in our country’s mental health and addiction treatment system. And I don’t think that comes as a surprise.
On his website, Buttigieg declares that he will “decriminalize all drug possession” to fight the nation’s opioid crisis wherein drug overdoses are killing an unprecedented 72,000 U.S. residents every year.
The figure is nearly three times as many individuals killed by global terrorism and 10,000 more than the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War.
Those accused of drug trafficking often plead down to drug possession to secure lesser sentences.
UPDATE: Should Buttigieg enforce his plan, drug traffickers would still be jailed.