On November 25, 2007, at a Presidential Campaign stop at in Ringe , New Hampshire , LEAP speaker Bradley Jardis, a working police officer from confronted Senator John McCain about the Senator’s support for the US policy of a war on drugs. McCain, like all but three of the presidential campaigners* usually brushes off questions about drug policy with a curt answer but he did not dare treat a working police officer in that manner. The result was the below Transcript of the 5 minute 49 second discussion that ensued. The video of that discussion can be viewed at http://www.leap.cc/cms/index.php?name=Web_Links&l_op=visit&lid=124.
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Bradley Jardis: I have served here in my state as a law enforcement officer for going on nine years now. And after nine years of working the street, I have come to the conclusion that the war on drugs is a terrible failure. I saw first hand that the war on drugs causes crime. It causes children to have access to drugs easier and it does nothing to curb the problem of drug trafficking or use—just as alcohol prohibition after the 18th amendment passed. Then we wised up and passed the 21st amendment, which curbed the violence problem within this country greatly. What is it going to take for powerful politicians, such as yourself, to realize that the war on drugs is a failure and we need to get smart about drugs? Not tough, we need to be smart about drugs.
John McCain: “Thank you sir. It is going to take a lot before I adopt your viewpoint, although I must say, (Applause) express my respect and appreciation for keeping our families and our neighborhoods in the state of New Hampshire safe and I am grateful for your service. But I’ve heard your comparison between drugs and alcohol. I think most experts would say in moderation one or two drinks of alcohol does not have the affect on one’s judgment or manual acuity or physical abilities. I think most experts will say that the first ingestion of drugs leads to mind-altering and other experiences and effects that can lead over time to serious problems. Now I will agree with you to this extent, that too often we put first time drug users in prison. (Applause) In my home state of Arizona we a program that puts first time drug offenders, not dealers but first time drug offenders, that they have the eligibility on rehab program that is associated with very significant testing procedures. And if they successfully complete that rehabilitation course, then they are allowed to move forward with their lives. We have too many first time drug offenders in prison. I think we all know that. But I will do everything I can to help you with your work. I will do whatever I can do to help you combat these drug dealers, these terrible people that prey on America but there have been experiments in ; some places there where basically the use of drugs is freely and openly used and some of those places they have had to shut down those places because of the terrible effects of not restricting the use of drugs from those places. So I would like to refer you to those places where they have done that. And I don’t in any way diminish the magnitude of your job and terrible affect that drugs have on Americans. And a lot of it, as you know, comes across our southern borders. And I’m happy to tell you that we seem to have a president of Mexico now who is very serious about enforcing the border and cooperating with us against drug dealers. Now I think in full disclosure, with drug cartels there is such problems that I don’t think he is going to be able to do it. But my friends, I want to help him and I want to help him clean it up but that also is a big problem. Now I just want to ask one other thing, do you think methamphetamine ought to be legal?
Bradley Jardis: I think what we need to look at is the drug policy.
John McCain: Yea but you know it’s one thing to talk about policy; it’s another thing to talk about specific comments. With all due respect, do you think methamphetamine should be made legal?
Bradley Jardis: I don't think if someone is caught with methamphetamine we should put them in prison, period. We should be helping them. We should help people who are addicted to drugs (Applause) and not spend 69 billion dollars a year to imprison them. (Continuing applause) If you arrest somebody, it does not solve the problem. You just said there are drug cartels. There would not be drug cartels if we were to regulate drugs. In they have public heroin clinics where people can come and get help with clean needles and to get off drugs. There is no doubt that drugs are dangerous but our policy does not do anything to help people who are addicted. If you arrest a sixteen year old for marijuana and they get a criminal conviction, you can get over an addiction but you will never get over a conviction. They loose their funding to go to college and no one can ever say, that keeping a kid from going to college because of prohibition sounds good. Not at all. Thank you very much. (Applause)
John McCain: “I’m sorry he didn’t have a position on methamphetamine but I do agree with you. I do agree with you strongly. As I said, we have this program in which I would like to see adopted nation wide: the first time offender is given an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and to have clean record. I thank you for your service and I appreciate the discussion and I look forward to continuing this dialogue because I in no way mean to diminish the magnitude of this problem and the terrible tragedies it inflicts on America everyday. Thank you and thank you for your service.
At the end of Senator McCain’s presentation, Bradley Jardis approached the Senator, shook hands and handed him a copy of the 12-minute LEAP Promo DVD explaining why prohibition should be ended.
Bradley generated a much more productive discussion than whether we should legalize a specific drug by moving on to the policy question of ending drug prohibition. Bradley should be applauded by all reformers because to date this has been the most significant confrontation of a Presidential Campaigner on a drug policy issues.
* Three campaigners for the 2008 Presidential race, former (D-Alaska), Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) have called for an end to the war on drugs; something never before done by any one running for the presidency of the United States.