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Obama Says No to Legalization of Illicit Drugs


President Obama this weekend said “legalization is not the answer” to stemming the tide of illegal drugs. He spoke Saturday at a summit meeting of Western Hemisphere nations in Cartagena, Colombia.

Colombia’s leader, Juan Manuel Santos, asked whether there was a middle ground between all drug consumers going to jail, and legalization, The New York Times reports.

“I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places,” President Obama responded. He added, “I personally, and my administration’s position, is that legalization is not the answer.”

He stated that if drug operations were allowed to function legally, they could dominate certain countries, which “could be just as corrupting if not more corrupting then the status quo.”

Mr. Santos said that despite tremendous effort and costs, the illicit drug business is prospering.

The United States has devoted tens of billions of dollars to reducing the demand for drugs in this country, Mr. Obama said.

7 Responses to this article

  1. docbarry / April 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Thank you for your feedback David, however, I don’t think that you understand the true nature of social and public policy like Prohibition. I remember that England was a little more compassionate with legalization of heroin, compared to USA. However, I would like to make a few points that I believe will refute the illogical approach to Prohibition in my country. I do not have the numbers in front of me, but I recently read that about 25% of American teens have driven while under the influence of a chemical. Prohibition has never stopped anyone from indulging fro mood altering substances, if that is what they choose. Yet, I believe in the possibility of recovering and managing of acute asthma, hypertension, diabetes, and addiction, so that are very manageable. I have not yet learned how to alter a young person’s life because they were found to be in possession of a substance that was legal 100 years ago. That doen’t even make sense. Why would we have our Criminal Justice system treat a chronic disorder? If you or your child or a loved one was in an insulin coma, would you expect a cop or probation officer or even a judge to help? I don’t think so. But we wonder why more people suffering from addiction don’t come forward and ask for help. They can’t; by the very nature of their illness, they are criminals. You can call it any thing you want. What is really pathetic is a nation that is so broke, it has to furlough Air Traffic Controllers, but we keep paying to keep not violent offenders in prison to the tune of 50k per person, add that to the revenue we are losing to the “cartels”, because the substnaces are in demand. By the way, don’t you think that there is a problem when the two most dangerous, and most responsible for death are legal in our country. Yes, Tobacco and Alcohol are legal; Uncle Sam has no problem taking huge amounts of tax revenue from those pructs, at least, one hopes that a bottle of wine or pack of Camels is really what it says it is. Can you say that about the products that come via the cartels, and are distributed by companies that have exb=cellent quality control standards in place. I am sorry for the sarcasm; I just think the solution is so obvious, this is not new. Study the history of mankind.

  2. David Raynes / April 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Dr. Barry Schecter

    There is almost nothing more silly when debating drug policy, than suggesting that under legalization “the criminal issue goes away”.
    In the UK where I am based, more than 20% of the tobacco market is smuggled, counterfeit or both, with the real (Italian) Mafia involved. In some other countries the percentage is larger. There is plenty of price elasticity in the current drugs market so criminal enterprise would always undercut by price, legal sales and might even offer something stronger. Criminal enterprise would survive and expand to feed the inevitably larger market that legalisation would bring (see Peter Reuter 1999). In some source countries the in-fighting might be even more vicious than it is now. Also remember that some of the substances Ethan Nadelmann wants to be legal can be made in small almost domestic labs.

    Criminality would proper under legalisation. Legalisation of any currently illegal drug to damage criminality is wrong. If it is to be done it has to be done for “public good” reasons, that is very hard to demonstrate given the evidence base of the immense harm of the tobacco/alcohol model. That is why Ethan has been struggling for so many years. Mind you he gets well paid for his hopeless struggle so from his point of view, why not?

  3. Avatar of David Raynes
    David Raynes / April 17, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Dont get over excited Ethan, your campaign for world wide legalisation of all drugs, for your paymaster George Soros, is going nowhere.

  4. Dr. Barry Schecter / April 17, 2012 at 7:21 am

    This doesn’t surprise me anymore than George H. W. Bush being surprised that stores have scanners. Obama has always claimed to be a change agent, an advocate for the people with no voice. Instead, he has just become like a tinkling cymbal, focused more on getting re-elected, so that he can not challenge the staus quo. Why is it that Nixon began a failed policy called “The War on Drugs,” has wasted countless lives and resources, and drugs are more plentiful than prior to the war? I ask that rhetorically. I want to know why we have not spent a trillion dollars on Astma, Hypertension, etc., but by its very nature, we have contributed to a second coming of organized crime, paid for with the blood of our children. Would Obama recommend that birthday cakes are illegal for Diabetics? Maybe have police patrol bake shops. Why is it that someone that is not a health care professional is dictating how certain chronic disorders are treated? Obama. What happened to the guy who used the Internet to garner support? How many of your followers were smoking pot while listening to you? Do you think jail time will help them or the cartels? What happened to logic? There are two issues, one a criminal problem, one a health problem. The criminal issue goes away with legilation; than I’d like to see work done on the drug problem.

  5. Avatar of ETHAN NADELMANN
    ETHAN NADELMANN / April 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    That Obama opposes legalization is not news. The more newsworthy headline would have drawn from his other comment, which you quote: “I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.”

    That’s the first time a U.S. president has said that!

  6. Michael W. Shore, M.D. / April 16, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    I agree that legalization is problematic on many levels. The ONE thing missing is to recognize that addiction is a TREATABLE illness, a brain disease, and we as a society woefully underfund treatment for those who need and request it. Treat patients with chemical dependency instead of locking them up and/or legalizing drugs and opening up Pandora’s box!!! Dr. Shore

  7. Avatar of Brett
    Brett / April 29, 2013 at 11:53 am

    “’I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.’
    That’s the first time a U.S. president has said that!”

    “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana in private for personal use… Therefore, I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce [28g] of marijuana.”~Jimmy Carter, Aug. 2, 1977

    It’s a nice thought on Obama’s part, but it’s classic non-committal commenting. “Yeah, it’s a good point, we should talk about it. We’re going to talk about how we should talk about it, but then we’ll move on.

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