Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said on Sunday that under his administration, heroin possession would not be illegal or would at most be a misdemeanor.
"Mayor, you not only want to decriminalize marijuana, you want to decriminalize all drug possession. You say the better answer is treatment, not incarceration," Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace said. "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?"
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"I think what we need to focus on is where you have distribution," Buttigieg said. "Possession would not be dealt with through incarceration."
Wallace pointed out that Buttigieg's website says that all drugs would be decriminalized. Buttigieg acknowledged his stance but said drug possession could also be a misdemeanor, a class of offense usually not punished with prison time. He argued 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."
Recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control found that there were roughly 67,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018, the second highest figure on record. These deaths are largely driven by the synthetic opioid fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, all of which Buttigieg would legalize or decriminalize possession of.