Obama Says Legalization Is Not the Answer on Drugs

Apr 16, 2012

Lead­ers at a sum­mit meet­ing of many of the West­ern Hemi­sphere nations on Sat­ur­day dis­cussed alter­na­tives to what many con­sider a failed “war on drugs” that is too reliant on mil­i­tary action and impris­on­ment. But Pres­i­dent Obama said flatly that “legal­iza­tion is not the answer.” The issue was placed on the agenda of the Sum­mit of the Amer­i­cas this week­end by the host, Colombia’s pres­i­dent, Juan Manuel San­tos. Even so, Mr. San­tos sug­gested that he had in mind some unspec­i­fied mid­dle ground short of fully decrim­i­nal­iz­ing the drug trade that for years has under­mined soci­eties through­out the region, notably in Colom­bia. “We have the oblig­a­tion to see if we’re doing the best that we can do, or are there other alter­na­tives that can be much more effi­cient?” Mr. San­tos said dur­ing an infor­mal panel dis­cus­sion with Mr. Obama and Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff of Brazil just before the sum­mit meet­ing began. “One side can be all the con­sumers go to jail. On the other extreme is legal­iza­tion. On the mid­dle ground, we may have more prac­ti­cal poli­cies.” In his turn, Mr. Obama said, “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.” But, he added, “I per­son­ally, and my administration’s posi­tion, is that legal­iza­tion is not the answer.” Drug oper­a­tions could come to “dom­i­nate cer­tain coun­tries if they were allowed to oper­ate legally with­out any con­straint,” he said, and “could be just as cor­rupt­ing if not more cor­rupt­ing then the sta­tus quo.” The promi­nence of the drug-enforcement issue at the meet­ing, which drew more than 30 lead­ers from North, Cen­tral and South Amer­ica and Caribbean nations, in part reflected a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment: the increased pros­per­ity in Latin Amer­ica in recent years has made eco­nomic issues less of a prob­lem, and at the same time has embold­ened Latin Amer­i­can lead­ers to take a big­ger role in set­ting the agenda when they meet. Mr. San­tos, in open­ing the meet­ing on Sat­ur­day after­noon, said the lead­ers should stop stalling in re-examining the region’s approach to the war on drugs, which he dated more than four decades back to Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon in 1971. Pres­i­dent Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala has called for full legal­iza­tion of nar­cotics, though no spe­cific pro­pos­als are on the table here. “Despite all of the efforts, the immense efforts, the huge costs, we have to rec­og­nize that the illicit drug busi­ness is pros­per­ing,” Mr. San­tos told the lead­ers. “This sum­mit is not going to resolve this issue,” he added. “But it can be a start­ing point to begin a dis­cus­sion that we have been post­pon­ing for far too long.” Mr. Obama, in his remarks at the for­mal ses­sion, before reporters were ush­ered out, said: “I know there are frus­tra­tions and that some call for legal­iza­tion. For the sake of the health and safety of our cit­i­zens — all our cit­i­zens — the United States will not be going in this direc­tion.” Ear­lier, on the infor­mal panel before an audi­ence of cor­po­rate exec­u­tives and mem­bers of the nations’ offi­cial del­e­ga­tions, Mr. Obama had drawn applause when he said of nar­cotics traf­fick­ing, “We can’t look at the issue of sup­ply in Latin Amer­ica with­out also look­ing at the issue of demand in the United States.” Latin Amer­i­cans have long com­plained that the United States crit­i­cizes its neigh­bors’ antidrug efforts when it is Amer­i­can users and guns that stoke the drug trade and vio­lence. At the for­mal meet­ing, Mr. Obama said: “As I’ve said many times, the United States accepts our share of respon­si­bil­ity for drug vio­lence. That’s why we’ve ded­i­cated major resources to reduc­ing the south­bound flow of money and guns to the region. It’s why we’ve devoted tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in the United States to reduce the demand for drugs. And I promise you today — we’re not going to relent in our efforts.” Absent from the meet­ing was Venezuela’s pres­i­dent, Hugo Chávez, who is bat­tling can­cer; offi­cials said he stayed away on his doc­tors’ advice. The absence of Mr. Chávez, a fierce critic of the United States, elim­i­nated the poten­tial for a tense meet­ing with Mr. Obama. After the pre­vi­ous Sum­mit of the Amer­i­cas in 2009, when the two pres­i­dents were pho­tographed shak­ing hands, Mr. Obama was crit­i­cized by some Repub­li­cans. Sep­a­rately, in an inter­view with Uni­vi­sion, Mr. Obama strongly reit­er­ated a promise to seek an over­haul of immi­gra­tion pol­icy in a sec­ond term. But Mr. Obama, who also pledged in 2008 to seek a new law, said he needed more sup­port in Con­gress, where Repub­li­cans have led the oppo­si­tion. “This is some­thing I care deeply about,” he said. “It’s per­sonal to me.” Source: New York Times (NY) Author: Jackie Calmes Pub­lished: April 14, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 The New York Times Com­pany Con­tact: letters@​nytimes.​com Web­site: http://​www​.nytimes​.com/

c9c40d5ab0money.jpg 150x112 Obama Says Legalization Is Not the Answer on Drugs

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Obama Says Legal­iza­tion Is Not the Answer on Drugs

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