Amy's Favorite 2008 Election Moment

By Far.

Gravel tells kids: Use pot over alcohol

By Rick Pearson

Tribune political reporter

January 8, 2008


Not much has been heard recently from former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel as the candidate continues his long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he did gain attention with recent remarks on alcohol and drugs during a high school visit.

Gravel, 77, appeared Sunday night at the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter as part of a series in which candidates and candidate representatives were asked to speak to students about their campaigns. At one point Gravel, who has called the war on drugs a failure, offered the students some advice.

"I'm sure a lot of you have tripped out on alcohol," Gravel said. "It's a lot safer to do it on marijuana."

Gravel, whose comments were recorded by WMUR-TV in Manchester, also told the students, "With respect to other drugs, if you've got a problem with coke, go to a doctor, get a prescription and get it filled at a drug store."

Critics have contended that Gravel has come off as the old angry uncle in his early appearances with the other contenders. But that was before most debate sponsors stopped inviting him to participate. Gravel has billed himself "eclectic."

He has maintained that drug use is a public health problem, not a criminal one, and has proposed replacing what he calls "prohibition" with a regulation of hard drugs. His campaign has reprinted a conversation he had in May with the Iowa Independent Web site in which he expressed support for decriminalization of marijuana.

"Go get yourself a fifth of Scotch or a fifth of gin and chug-a-lug it down and you'll find you lose your senses a lot faster than you would smoking some marijuana," Gravel said.

Julie Quinn, director of communications for Phillips Exeter, would say only that "the candidates have a right to their own opinions."

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