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Biden would take us back on drugs

Vice President Joseph Biden, exploring entering the presidential race he passed up earlier, met with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren last weekend, setting off all kinds of speculation about his plans.

In May, 19-year-old University of Nevada student Ivy Ziedrich confronted Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush in Reno and told him, “Your brother created ISIS.”

It would be a good idea if someone publicly confronted Joe Biden and said, “You created the drug cartels.”

As a United States senator, Biden was one of the nation’s leading drug warriors, and he employed the same tools as other drug warriors – falsehoods, exaggerations and hysteria.

Drug prohibition in this country has been around since Virginia City, Nevada and San Francisco, California enacted the first anti-drug laws in the 1870s, but it wasn’t until Richard Nixon became president that it became a punitive, dangerous threat to public health and the national security. Since then, Congress has run amuck enacting anti-drug laws that created an illegal market and drove drug use sky high while empowering drug lords and destroying nations like Colombia and Mexico. Every president except Gerald Ford and (for the first part of his term) Jimmy Carter have jumped on the anti-drug bandwagon or left it undisturbed.

Every time a GOP president called for ratcheting up the drug war, Biden called him weak and demanded harsher action. He called for piling up more billions, turning the war on drugs into a domestic Vietnam.

Biden pushed hard, over the objections of Republicans, for the establishment of a federal drug czar, one of whom later spent taxpayer dollars in a Nevada ballot campaign and then failed to file his campaign disclosure reports. The federal drug czars have also generally been a pack of liars, keeping fact checkers busy.

In August 1989, with billions of dollars poured down the taxpayer-funded rathole of drug prohibition, Biden said, “I have no hesitation of choosing money for the war on drugs over student aid, over any other thing in the entire budget.”

The same month, he said, “One thing is for sure. We have to get serious. We have no war on drugs. We need a D-Day. We don’t need another Vietnam.”

Conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick said of “the Delaware tiger” (as he called Biden), “An $8 billion federal program suddenly struck all kinds of people as no more useful than a can of Flit in a square mile of mosquitoes.”

In June 1987, when New York Mayor Ed Koch said the U.S. needed to turn its military loose on drugs, Biden said, “Our military security is more at risk from the drug problem … than it is from somebody accidentally setting off a nuclear weapon.” Biden called for an end to foreign aid to nations that allow the manufacture of marijuana, cocaine, or heroin.

In 1989 Chicago Tribune D.C. correspondent Steve Daley wrote, “Listening to the official Democratic response to Bush’s program, offered by Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, it was clear the Democrats are every bit as manipulative as the Republicans. … Biden did everything but bare his teeth and growl. Democrats have been whipsawed on law and order, and Biden’s presentation was a politically transparent attempt to lay the rough side down for the Democrats. You want jails? We want more jails. You hate drug dealers? We hate ’em more.”

In May 1990, Biden claimed one out of every hundred citizens were hooked on cocaine. February 1992: “More than three million Americans – one in 80 – now use cocaine or heroin or both every week. This is not the picture of a nation winning the drug war, as the president claimed. Indeed, it is not even the picture of a nation waging a good fight.” He seemed not to make any connection between his success in ramping up drug enforcement and ever-climbing drug use.

Biden once said, “We can pass all the drug laws in the world, but unless we begin to change attitudes about drugs, we’re going to fail.” But Biden did not reassess his view of drug prohibition. He pushed nonsense claims about marijuana like “greater potency.”

The nation is now cooling it with anti-drug militancy, slowly drifting toward treating it as a health care problem again. Biden would be a threat to that progress.

Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.

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