McCain's approach is weighted toward enforcement and incarceration. While opposing imprisoning first-time drug users and supporting prisoner re-entry programs, he supports mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers, less judicial sentencing discretion, executing drug kingpins and increasing drug interdiction on the Mexican border. The 72-year-old cancer survivor opposes allowing cancer patients to use prescription marijuana for medical treatment or to allow heroin addicts to receive methadone treatment.
"Illegal narcotics are a scourge that I have fought against my entire legislative career and I believe this fight must begin with prevention and enforcement," McCain - a Republican U.S. senator from Arizona since 1987 - wrote in response to a survey from the International Association of Chiefs of Police released Oct. 6. "As president, I would continue these efforts to ensure that our nation's children are protected from the influence of illegal drugs and the drug peddlers are brought to justice for their crimes."
Obama, a 47-year-old Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois since 2005, supported stiffer sentences for marijuana possession as an Illinois state senator and more money for combating methamphetamine dealing as a U.S. senator. But Obama's platform puts more emphasis on drug courts, drug treatment, needle-exchange programs and alternatives to incarceration for drug addicts partially because of his own drug use.
"I say to myself that if I had been growing up in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago, there is no reason to think that I wouldn't be in jail today, that I could have easily taken the wrong turn," Obama told author and Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell in "Obama: From Promise to Power." "That is something that I am very mindful of and it is something that motivates me."
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