Late last month, President Barack Obama repeated his position on the drug war during a town hall meeting at the University of Maryland:
“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. We’ve got to put more resources into that. We can’t simply focus on [prohibition] because, frankly, no matter how good of a job we’re doing when it comes to [a prohibitive] 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.” (Emphasis added.)
He was answering a question from a doctoral student concerning ending the drug war and more cost-effective rehabilitation for drug users. President Obama went on to explain American efforts with Mexico to fight transnational drug dealers before making his point clearer:
“Just to make sure that I’m actually answering your question, am I willing to pursue a decriminalization strategy as an approach? No.”
Obama’s clearly concerned about rehabilitation–though specifically what kind is unclear–and prevention. And these are important things: Proper rehabilitation is paramount to users of dangerous drugs, and make those drugs inaccessible will certainly solve addiction and other problems. Obama even understands the connection between demand for illegal drugs and drug-related violence.
He just missed the “illegal” part of that thought. It’s not the drugs that cause violence; it’s the illegality.
One thing’s for sure: Obama isn’t about to approve any cannabis legalization attempts. He’s not even willing to consider decriminalization, after all. In the President’s eyes, we are criminals. We’re criminals for seeking alternative treatment to a host of maladies. We’re criminals for peacefully relaxing in our own homes. And we’re in the wrong for trying to rid the country of this victimless crime.
The government is not infallible, Mr. President.
Austin Wulf is a freelance writer and cannabis activist who wishes more politicians would recognize their country’s mistakes. You can read more of his observations on the pro-cannabis movement here.