Saturday, April 27, 2013

Obama announces the end of the war on drugs - anyone notice?

So what did you miss while you were anguishing over George W. trying to rehabilitate his legacy and worrying about whether or not the Boston bomber would be read his Miranda rights and setting your hair on fire because Congress fixed the FAA furloughs? A lot!

President Obama launched two new major initiatives this week. But WAY too many people are more interested in setting their hair on fire to notice. Yeah, I'm pissed about that. So I'm going to do my small part to focus on what I think is really important.

First of all, the White House issued A Drug Policy for the 21st Century. In doing so, a few of us noticed that this validates what Mark Ambinder predicted almost a year ago...that in his second term, President Obama would pivot to the drug war.
According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War.

Don't expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn't expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all.
Ambinder was right. There are no "miracles" included in what the White House announced this week. I've read the page on the White House web site I linked to above as well as taking a look at the report issued by R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (pdf). This statement from the web site pretty much sums up my own mixed feelings.
While law enforcement will always play a vital role in protecting our communities from drug-related crime and violence, we simply cannot incarcerate our way out of the drug problem. Put simply, an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” approach to drug policy is counterproductive, inefficient, and costly. At the other extreme, drug legalization also runs counter to a public health and safety approach to drug policy. The more Americans use drugs, the higher the health, safety, productivity, and criminal justice costs we all have to bear.
The bold statement about the "war on drugs" being counterproductive, inefficient, and costly is ground-breaking from a presidential administration. Lets mark this day and remember it! The war that Richard Nixon declared in 1971 has been declared over by the Obama administration.

On the other hand, merely tossing off the other extreme as "legalization" means that there will be little attempt to grapple with some of the hard stuff. To fail to distinguish between the different types of drugs that were caught up in this war and put them all under the same rubric continues the lie that marijuana should be treated the same as heroin or crack cocaine.  Its really way past time that we got honest with the American people - especially young people - about all that.

With that said, there are some really positive initiatives that are included in this report...things like focusing on prevention rather than incarceration, expanding access to treatment, support for drug courts, diversion, and re-entry programs, and eliminating the barriers currently in place for people in recovery.

In other words, this is a major step forward towards some sanity in our drug policy. Its not the end game, but its a start. We need to get the word out and get this ball rolling FORWARD!

P.S. Later I'll write a separate piece on the second major initiative President Obama launched this week. Keep your eye out for that one.


  1. THANK YOU for pointing this out! I was waiting for the MSM to acknowledge it in some way, but apparently drug policy to them is only relevant to stoned teenagers.

    When folks on the left attack Obama for not supporting legalization of marijuana, I feel they are missing the point. The "drug war" encompasses far more than just pot. At the very least, Obama is starting the conversation for reforming drug laws, just as he started the conversation to end the indefinite war.

    1. I wouldn’t worry so much about the legalization advocates in this regard. Unlike the Purity Left, the marijuana lobby and movement are actually highly effective. Despite their harsh feelings against Obama, they clearly understand how our political system operates and act accordingly. And I don't think they are kidding themselves in expecting miracles either. But, unlike some of our "holier than thou" left-wingers, the mj legalization movement actually knows how to persuade and/or push politicians instead of just relying on whining and complaining.

      It's true that the Drug War compasses more than just pot, but it’s in pot where the biggest flaws of the entire Drug War policy lie. Whereas drugs like cocaine and heroin actually have dire, life-threatening consequences, marijuana's harms are much more exaggerated. It is not a harmless drug and its use does regular regulation, but it has never killed anyone. Not even alcohol, still America's recreational drug of choice, can make this claim.

      So, marijuana is actually a big deal. Yet, as the debate over weed progresses, we can't lose sight of the other drugs and this where you and I would agree. The Drug War didn't just involve arresting people for involvement in a drug whose harms to society were gravely exaggerated (marijuana). It also involved poor policy decisions when dealing with the harmful effects of stronger drugs. It involved using the criminal justice system to solve a public health issue. Cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth, are dangerous drugs that should be at least severely restricted; if not flat out illegal. Yet, the Drug War has clearly failed in dealing with these drugs as well.

      I expect the marijuana lobby and movement to still complain about these minor steps from the Obama Administration. Yet, they will follow up their complaints with action. So, this isn't over yet. Not by a long shot! In the meantime, I would like to thank Smarty Pants for pointing out that a sitting Presidential Administration calling the "Drug War" approach "counterproductive" is a huge deal. And it will encourage dialogue. The Administration is banking on that.

    2. Anonymous @ 12:30

      You summed it all up incredibly well - thank you!

  2. Smarty Pants - you can't give credit for Obama being a forward thinking liberal, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill have speaking tours going on. ;-)

    Always remember that part of the liberal Obama-bashing is an industry.

  3. When leftie journalists write that Obama has done nothing to end the War on Drugs, we can say, "What kind of hashtag are you smoking?"

    1. LOL

      I just saw a diary at DK where the author was yelling about the fact that Obama hasn't done anything to stop the war on drugs. But the author was so incredibly racist and out to lunch, I didn't even bother - he's too far gone to notice.

    2. I haven't been there all week as I've had better things to do... got a link?

    3. This guy is either a really bad Republican troll or he's lost his freakin mind. Anyway, here ya go.

    4. Yeah, I saw it. What a turd. I did like that the upraters of that tripe that would make the Klan ashamed (who are the same group that hide rate anything complimentary of PBO) all lost their HR privileges, and the diarist's account got fried. Don't know how long that will last.

      Get up on his "hind legs"? "Gangster"? Are they freaking serious?

  4. Facts: There are more lives lost with Tobacco and Alcohol abuse than all of the drug related deaths combined. There were more deaths with the battles of drug enforcement, than the consuming deaths of over use and overdoses. Check the CDC website for the figures/ and DEA reports. There are inflated values for busts, that also tie into better budgets for law enforcement. Like the Hearst publications of old, the adage to "Create the News come more clearer.