Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich does not support the legalization of medical marijuana and would like the see the United States adopt a more aggressive policy against drug use.
Gingrich told Yahoo! News’ Chris Moody on Saturday that California showed that medical marijuana was a “joke,” where doctors prescribed the drug for nearly anybody who wanted it.
He introduced legislation to legalize the medical use of marijuana in 1981, but has since changed his position on the issue.
“What has changed was the number of parents I met with who said they did not want their children to get the signal from the government that it was acceptable behavior and that they were prepared to say as a matter of value that it was better to send a clear signal on no drug use at the risk of inconveniencing some people, than it was to be compassionate toward a small group at the risk of telling a much larger group that it was okay to use the drug,” Gingrich explained.
According to a report presented at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Exposition, medical marijuana legalization does not increase its use among teenagers.
“My general belief is that we ought to be much more aggressive about drug policy,” Gingrich said.
He would like to see steeper economic penalties for illegal drug use and more drug testing, including mandatory drug testing for anyone who receives unemployment compensation or food stamps.
Florida and Missouri have already approved laws requiring applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to pass a mandatory drug test. Republican lawmakers in other states have also proposed similar laws this year.
He also supports the death penalty for high-level drug smugglers, noting the “successful” and “draconian” drug policies of Singapore.
Gingrich said he was “very serious” about “minimize drug use in America” but did not think throwing people in prison was the right approach. He favors medical help and drug addiction treatment.
Two of his Republican rivals, businessman Hermain Cain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, have endorsed allowing state’s to legalize medical marijuana without interference from the federal government.
Although 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, the federal government still lists marijuana as a Schedule I substance, a class reserved for the most dangerous and medically useless drugs.