MARYSVILLE — The students of Marysville Mountain View High School’s SOAR program weren’t tossing softballs when they asked U.S. Rick Larsen about drug policies or Democratic Party politics during a classroom visit June 2.
Student Kelly Teagarden questioned Larsen on his stance regarding legalized marijuana, asking whether it would be better to have people using marijuana than becoming addicted to opiates or abusing prescription medication, both of which he identified as problems facing Snohomish County.
“It’s a legitimate argument, but I think it’s different from legalizing marijuana,” Larsen said. “They may overlap, but it’s still a separate issue.”
Larsen nonetheless noted that “the voters have already decided” the legality of marijuana in Washington.
That led Tayler Gobin Hammons to ask about Larsen’s thoughts on methadone clinics.
“When I was on the County Council, we tried to place methadone clinics in certain locations, but their neighbors didn’t want them there,” Larsen said. “They were worried that it would attract drug abusers, but most neighborhoods have people living there who are abusing drugs anyway.”
Larsen agreed with Tayler that methadone can be used to help wean addicts off drugs.
“When people become addicted to drugs, there are usually other issues going on there,” Larsen said. “Even law enforcement is less interested in treating addiction as a crime.”
Tayler replied: “It’s a waste to put people in jail, when you could be helping them.”
Larsen found less common ground with students on the subject of the Democratic primary. Although the Washington Democratic caucuses voted for Bernie Sanders, Larsen has endorsed Hillary Clinton, as an appointed and unpledged “superdelegate.”
When Tayler asked Larsen which of Sanders’ and Clinton’s positions he agreed with, Larsen revealed that he judges presidential fitness not by policy positions, but by “vision, experience and capability.”
“Ultimately, I’ll support the Democratic nominee, because that’s my job,” Larsen said. “Sanders and Clinton and their respective supporters make more of their differences than actually exist. They’re more alike than either is willing to admit.”
When asked if he felt pressured to follow the lead of voters in his district, Larsen drew a line between his roles as a Congressman and a superdelegate.
“Yes, my job is to represent my district in Congress,” Larsen said. “But there are no rules dictating my choice as a superdelegate.”
Larsen also acknowledged that Marysville could have a more well-known network for dealing with homelessness when asked about that topic.