In a speech in Mexico City on Friday, President Obama shut the door on any possibility that he'll support efforts in his second term to legalize certain recreational drugs.
“I’ve been asked, and I honestly do not believe that legalizing drugs is the answer,” the president told a large gathering of young Mexicans at the city’s Anthropology Museum.
Polls show that more and more Americans favor ending the federal ban on pot. A handful of states in the U.S. have lifted legal restrictions on the drug in recent years — including Colorado and Washington — putting Obama in an awkward place. A pot smoker in his younger days, he must decide whether to instruct his Department of Justice to challenge those state laws, or to simply let them be.
The president likely felt it necessary to touch on drugs in his speech today since marijuana is a chief import from Mexico to the United States. It is also largely to blame for the rising swell of cartel violence that has killed thousands in Mexico over the years, and has occasionally spilled over into the southern U.S.
Obama said that his administration must focus on an all-encompassing strategy to deal with drug users at home, as well as figure out a way to reduce demand for drugs.
“We understand that much of the root cause of violence that’s been happening here in Mexico, for which many so Mexicans have suffered, is the demand for illegal drugs in the United States. And so we’ve got to continue to make progress on that front.”
He added that fixing the problem will require “a comprehensive approach — not just law enforcement, but education and prevention and treatment.”
Those words reflect the latest plan put forth by Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which essentially considers recreational drug use to be a public health issue. Rather than advocating for reforming drug users through jails and prisons, the plan calls for blending strong prevention techniques with effective rehabilitation programs in order to curb future drug use.
The Obama administration’s strategy, though, is somewhat controversial since it technically defines regular pot users as people with brain diseases — addiction, the administration says, is a brain disease. Scores of marijuana defenders, however, say that there is no proof that the drug is addictive.
Marijuana Must Be Legalized
robert corey huffingtonpost.com
It is 5:00 a.m. on a cold dark Colorado morning. Twenty-five SWAT team officers, clad in black helmets, body armor, wielding assault weapons, large clear shields, and heavy iron battering rams, surround a quiet residential home, shatter the front door, and throw flash-bang grenadesand tear gas inside.
The team of 25 militarized cops stream into the house, screaming obscenities, shattering the terrified childrens' sleep and jarring the scared parents awake. The SWAT team then literally destroys the home and the furniture within, slashing couches, overturning bookcases, throwing possessions all over the floor, carting the crying children off to Social Services or foster care, and throwing the parents to the ground at gunpoint, handcuffing them painfully before carting them off to the police station.
The SWAT team then locates its target: a couple dozen three-foot high cannabis plants in a modest indoor basement garden, and a pound or so of dried plant matter, some lights, some fertilizer, and a few books on how to grow marijuana.
This is not an extreme example. This scene literally happens every day in America, a nation that loudly professes that it is a "free" country, but that leads the globe in per capita incarceration of its own people, a rate that exceeds those of human rights leaders such as North Korea, China, and Iran, due mostly to the war on drugs.
And this scene embodies America's war on marijuana. A government this large, this powerful, this intrusive, this belligerent, is necessary to fight this modern-day prohibition against a simple herb that approximately half of the American adult population has consumed at some point in their lives. There are so many reasons this must change:
The war on marijuana costs us money. The direct costs to local, state, and federal governments are staggering and exceed a trillion dollars. Police, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, courts, jailers, prison guards, and defense lawyers form a massive prison-industrial complex that distracts limited resources away from our failing economy and other more important priorities. The indirect costs to the economy, though more difficult to quantify, are probably higher in the form of people removed from their families and their jobs, the opportunity costs of distracted police and jammed courts too busy to adjudicate important criminal and civil cases. We also lose out on the benefits of industrial hemp, which has no recreational effect but which could be an extremely useful crop for American farmers and industry.
And all of this money has been wasted -- accomplishing, like so many other heavy-handed government programs, the precise opposite result of that which was intended. Even the U.S. government's drug czar (it is appropriate that this government position is named after an imperial Russian tyrant), Gil Kerlikowski, admits that the 40-year experiment with drug prohibition has been an abject failure.
Decades of drug prohibition has not accomplished a single of its goals. Albert Einstein's definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." As our governments at all levels pour more lawyers, guns, and money into this militarized marijuana prohibition, people still obtain it -- easily -- and supply and demand is totally uninterrupted on a macro scale; one dealer falls, another pops up. Under Einstein's definition, our government is literally insane.
The war on marijuana is alien to the principles of a free nation founded on the principles of limited government and personal responsibility. The negative impact of marijuana prohibition laws far outstrip the negative impact of the substance itself, which is one of the few things on Earth that has no practical lethal dose, it is basically harmless.
Humans in all cultures have used the cannabis plant since the dawn of history for medicinal, spiritual, industrial, and recreational purposes; only in the 20th century did it occur to any government to prohibit it. Thomas Jefferson and other founders grew cannabis on their plantations. The Declaration of Independence is written on hemp paper. Even Genesis 1:29 confirms that God gave man every seed-bearing plant on the Earth. God giveth, government taketh.
The history of American marijuana prohibition and "reefer madness" shows that its practical and legal basis is a house of cards. An outgrowth of alcohol prohibition which arose in roughly the same era, marijuana prohibition was born out of racially-charged fears of Mexicans and blacks.
For the American government to prohibit the cannabis plant, that government must declare war on its own principles. Such a prohibition then contributes to overall erosion in the general population's respect for the rule of law, because the aggressive enforcement of this law touches so many people and makes the law itself -- not just marijuana laws, but all laws and law enforcement officials -- a joke.
The body armor-clad government stormtroopers are necessary to prosecute the war on marijuana. That level of expensive and intrusive force is necessary if cannabis, widely used and widely accepted, is to be prohibited from our private homes and lives. But perhaps the best brief against prohibition is the fact that marijuana is widely available to prisoners in America's prisons and jails. Prisons and jails are the most tightly regulated, highly government-controlled locations in the world. If the government cannot keep marijuana outside of these places, can anyone seriously argue prohibition is enforceable in the general population?
The war on marijuana, like alcohol prohibition before it, creates and fuels the criminal underclass, organized crime, and domestic and foreign drug cartels. It is basic Economics 101: where there is a demand, a supply will be created to meet it, period. Human demand for marijuana, like alcohol, has lasted thousands of years, and will never go away. Leading economists like Milton Friedman have long seen the drug war as an economically-bankrupt policy.
If marijuana were legalized and taxed, violent drug cartels would lose the principal source of their income. Marijuana ought to be treated like a more dangerous substance: alcohol, available at the corner liquor store, and taxed and regulated. How many Mexican drug cartels smuggle beer over the border? Ban it, and you would see many. Create a regulated legal market for it, and the drug cartels are not involved.
It is literally easier for American schoolchildren to obtain marijuana than beer.
That is because the government has created the black market in marijuana, making it more accessible to children. There is no black market in beer. It is relatively cheap and easy to obtain, for adults, but difficult for children. Prohibition increases childrens' attraction to marijuana; the "forbidden fruit" is always sweeter.
For all of these reasons and many more, Americans have now passed the critical 50 percent threshold in support for legalization of marijuana. (These polls typically understate support, as many Americans are understandably reluctant to admit to using or supporting marijuana to an anonymous telephone surveyor.) Even conservative televangelist Pat Robertson recently acknowledged that marijuana ought to be legal.
It is long past time for politicians at all levels to end this bankrupt policy of Prohibition, and stop breaking down the doors of Americans who only want to possess a harmless plant in the comfort of their own homes.
Obama Says Drug Users Must Be Treated as Criminals
Remind me why everyone was so excited for him? -UA
7/28/11 huffingtonpost.com scott morgan
The explosive debate over drug policy in America is now so impossible to ignore that even the president is often forced to comment on it. His typical script about emphasizing a public health approach with an increased focus on treatment and prevention has become quite familiar to those following the issue.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the topic arose yet again during a town hall at the University of Maryland on Friday.
"Much is being asked of our generation," a doctoral student named Steve told the president at a town hall event in Maryland. "So, when are our economic perspectives going to be addressed? For example, when is the war on drugs in society going to be abandoned and be replaced by a more sophisticated and cost effective program of rehabilitation such as the one in Portugal?" [Raw Story]
Predictably, the president's response began by calling for "an approach that emphasizes prevention, treatment, a public health model for reducing drug use in our country." He understands, of course, that the brutal violence of the drug trade will continue as long as lots of people keep buying lots of drugs. But Obama's response then took a turn that, upon reflection, should raise doubts about his willingness to reform our nation's notoriously harsh handling of drug users in any meaningful way:
"Just to make sure that I'm actually answering your question, am I willing to pursue a decriminalization strategy as an approach? No."
Whatever else the president has had to say about taking a balanced approach and setting smart priorities, the bottom line is this: if you take a firm stance against decriminalization, you are declaring that drug users must continue to be treated as criminals. It may or may not be Obama's intention to say this, but it's the only meaning that can reasonably be attached to his words.
You cannot present yourself as a proponent of a public health approach while simultaneously advocating the aggressive pursuit, arrest, and imprisonment of people who might need help with a health problem. One need not come out as a supporter of marijuana legalization to acknowledge that slapping handcuffs on casual users, throwing them in jail, and branding them with criminal records is an approach we've already tried several million times too many. When you defend the continued criminalization of drug use, you render yourself an apologist for every dreadful consequence that follows as the crushing weight of the criminal justice system demolishes so much of what it touches.
Really, what is the point of speaking with seeming seriousness about moving beyond the drug war's ugly legacy of strong-arm solutions, only to turn around and flatly dismiss the notion of no longer criminalizing our friends and neighbors? Try as he might to walk a fine line between addressing growing public frustration and adhering to antiquated drug war politics, the president has ultimately become an advocate of nothing more than an incoherent and internally contradictory collection of cookie-cutter catch phrases that serve only to distract us while every problem with our drug policy gets worse under his watch.
Obama says he’s not willing to end the drug war
The war can't be over....there are still plenty of innocent ones left......-UA
Posted on 07.22.11 By David Edwards, rawstory.com
“Much is being asked of our generation,” a doctoral student named Steve told the president at a town hall event in Maryland. “So, when are our economic perspectives going to be addressed? For example, when is the war on drugs in society going to be abandoned and be replaced by a more sophisticated and cost effective program of rehabilitation such as the one in Portugal?”
“I have stated repeatedly — and it’s actually reflected in our most recent statement by our office of drug policy — that we need to have an approach that emphasizes prevention, treatment, a public health model for reducing drug use in our country,” Obama said. “We’ve got to put more resources into that. We can’t simply focus on interdiction because, frankly, no matter how good of a job we’re doing when it comes to an interdiction approach, if there is high demand in this country for drugs, we are going to continue to see not only drug use but also the violence associated with the drug trade.”
After several minutes of explaining U.S. efforts to help Mexico fight transnational drug dealers, the president got to the point.
“Just to make sure that I’m actually answering your question, am I willing to pursue a decriminalization strategy as an approach? No.”
“But I am willing to make sure that we’re putting more resources on the treatment and prevention side,” Obama added.