Politics and Addiction: Cast Your (Informed) 2016 Vote

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Election season is upon us, and no matter which side you fall on, you can’t deny that criminal justice reform is finally getting some much needed attention.

Addiction and Treatment

To make a more informed decision, take a look at where both parties fall on the spectrum, according to The Marshall Project.

  • Democrat: Using the counteractive effects of the “war on drugs,” they plan to prioritize prevention and treatment over incarceration when tackling substance abuse. To do this, they will expand access to treatment, support recovery, help community organizations and promote better practices by prescribers.
  • Republican: They plan to address continuing conflicts and contradictions in public attitudes and policy toward illegal drugs (i.e. the legality of marijuana in many jurisdictions despite its illegality under federal law). Thus, Congress and a new Administration should consider the long-range implications of these trends for public health and safety and prepare to deal with the problematic consequences.

Reentry and Recidivism

  • Democrat: The Dems want to remove barriers to help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully re-enter society by “banning the box,” expanding reentry programs and restoring voting rights.
  • Republicans: Conservatives encourage states to offer opportunities for literacy and vocational education to prepare prisoners for release to the community.


  • Democrat: They encourage the removal of marijuana from the list of “Schedule 1” federal controlled substances and ask for appropriate regulations, providing a pathway for future legalization. In addition, the party supports policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as changes in laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty.
  • Republican: Despite marijuana being legalized in many jurisdictions, Republicans specifically note it remains illegal under federal law.

In 2016, something different has happened along the road to the White House. POTUS hopefuls have been sprayed with an array of questions on a topic that’s somewhat “new” to the political agenda: marijuana policy.

Mandatory Minimums

  • Democrat: Instead of investing in more jails and incarceration, the Democratic party advocates greater investment in jobs and education so the school-to-prison route that many criminals take will be cut off. Instead, mandatory minimum sentences will be reformed and private prisons and detention centers will be closed.
  • Republican: In the past, judicial discretion about sentences led to serious mistakes concerning dangerous criminals. Mandatory minimum sentencing has become an important tool for keeping dangerous criminals off the streets. Modifications to it should only be targeted toward particular categories of crimes, especially nonviolent offenders and persons with drug, alcohol or mental health issues. Any departure from such sentencing requirements should require disclosure by the courts. The Republicans also encourage mandatory prison time for all assaults involving serious injury to law enforcement officers.

Additional Reading:   How is the U.S. Reimagining its War on Drugs?

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