During ABC News’s 2020 Democrat Debate on Friday evening, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, claimed he never called for the “decriminalization all drugs,” though his website explicitly states he would decriminalize “all drug possession.”
In an exchange with a debate moderator, Buttigieg said he has never called for decriminalizing all drugs. The exchange went as follows:
MODERATOR: Mayor Buttigieg, you have described yourself as a moderate. But one of your policies goes further than some on the stage with you are willing to go. You have called for the decriminalization of all drugs. Does that include heroin, meth, and cocaine — some of the drugs that have contributed to this crisis?
BUTTIGIEG: No, what I’ve called for is that incarceration should no longer be the response to drug possession.
MODERATOR: With all due respect, Mayor Buttigieg, on your website it says that you called for the decriminalization of all drugs.
BUTTIGIEG: Again, what I’m calling for is that we end the use of incarceration as a response. This does not mean that it will be lawful to produce or distribute those kinds of harmful drugs.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 8, 2020
A quick review of Buttigieg’s campaign website reveals he does call for the decriminalization of all drug possession. In his policy paper titled “A Plan to Improve Mental Health Care and Combat Addiction,” Buttigieg explicitly mentions that he will fight the opioid crisis by “decriminalizing all drug possession.”
“Decriminalize addiction and mental illness and decrease the number of people incarcerated due to mental illness or substance use by 75 percent in the first term by decriminalizing all drug possession, expanding access to diversionary programs, and implementing crisis intervention teams with mental health professionals for 911 responses,” the policy paper reads.
Online, Buttigieg’s deputy national press secretary Tess Whittlesey touted a Huffington Post report that claimed Buttigieg was correct in his answer and that the debate moderator was wrong in claiming he has called for decriminalizing all drugs.
— Tess Whittlesey (@tesswhittlesey) February 8, 2020
“If Bernie or Elizabeth ever lied to voters this blatantly, they’d be hounded by reporters for days,” Adam Jentleson, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Harry Reid, wrote on Twitter.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.