Obama Repeating the Mistakes of the Drug War

Forty years. One trillion dollars. Hundreds of thousands of lives. That’s the cost of the U.S. war on drugs. And the tab continues to rise.

This week, President Obama announced that he will send 1,200 National Guard troops to boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also will request $500 million for border protection and law enforcement. That’s a lot of Benjamins for a failed policy.

Like President Bush before him, Mr. Obama is sending in the troops to secure the border against illegal immigration. And, like Mr. Bush, he’s trying to steer cautiously through the election-year minefield that is immigration reform. He’s not likely to get comprehensive reform done this year. The troops are the backup plan. He has to show that he’s doing something about the problem. In 2006, Mr. Bush sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border. He, too, wanted comprehensive immigration reform. But it was an election year.

Beyond the immigration issue, however, is the drug issue. As in 2006, a major role of the National Guard is to support efforts to block drug trafficking. In fact, the Mexican government issued a statement saying it hoped the troops would be used to fight drug cartels and not enforce immigration laws. The troops sent under President Bush, however, didn’t quell the drug-trafficking violence. There’s no reason to believe that the outcome will be any different under President Obama.

Mexican drug cartels wouldn’t exist if the U.S. decriminalized drugs. There would be no drug wars. And far less drug violence. Sure, it sounds radical. But isn’t it insane to keep doing what we’ve been doing and expect different results?

Consider that in the 1920s, prohibition of alcohol simply created a huge illegal market for alcohol. Drug prohibition has created the same illegal market for marijuana, heroin and cocaine, the majority of which comes from Mexico. By the end of the 1920s, there were more alcoholics and illegal juke joints than before Prohibition. There also was more crime.

Prohibition was repealed because the paradise envisioned by a country without alcohol didn’t materialize. And during the Great Depression, the government realized that it needed the money from taxing alcohol.

The war on drugs also has not produced a crime-free society. The U.S. has the highest rate of marijuana and cocaine use in the world. And as history repeats itself, the Great Recession has states such as California eyeing the money it could get from taxing marijuana.

In 2001, Portugal became the first European country to abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, replacing jail time with the offer of therapy. In the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens declined; rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing dirty needles dropped; the number of people seeking treatment more than doubled.

President Obama promised to “reduce drug use and the great damage it causes” with a new policy that, like Portugal’s, treats drug use more as a public health issue than a criminal justice one. It’s also been a stated priority of Gil Kerlikowske, a former Port St. Lucie police chief who heads the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to get the country to focus more on treatment than incarceration.

“We must be smarter about our nation’s drug problem,” Mr. Kerlikowske said at last year’s conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “It’s time to recognize drug abuse and addiction for what it is – not just a law enforcement and criminal justice issue but also a complex and dynamic public health challenge.”

The Obama administration, however, has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels – $10 billion of the $15.5 billion drug-control budget. Where is the change Mr. Obama promised? I don’t expect him to call for the decriminalization of drugs. That would be too bold and politically risky. I do expect him to put our money where his mouth is.

– Article from the Palm Beach Post on May 27, 2010.



  1. Anonymous on

    The drug war is very sad indeed. Everything is failing us in our modern industrialised world, monocultured dr. created illnesses, war, international and religious crissis, this just tops it all off. I have said this for years and I will say it again, support mexico as the 51 state! Their problems are always ours for some reason might as well get some tax dollars and year round argiculture! Mexico for a hemp state!

  2. urnrg on

    It’s time to demand as peace loving folk that Obama recognize the realities that the drug war is a failure or demand that he should give back the Nobel Peace prize.

  3. David762 on

    The “Hope” and “Change you can believe in” were, surprise surprise, nothing more than throw-away campaign talking points. Welcome to the new boss, same as the old boss! While Obama talks liberalization on one hand with the curtailing of DEA raids on State-approved MMJ dispensaries, he doubles down on the repression of Prohibition 2.0 with the appointment of yet another fascist for Drug Czar, increasing anti-drug funding, and expansive new measures like Federal DUI enforcement based upon faulty testing.

    There will be no regression or elimination of Police State tactics imbued in the misnamed “War on Drugs” — really a war against people’s rights, from either the Republican or Democratic Parties. Both are heavily committed to the organized special interest groups that benefit from Prohibition 2.0. The only politicians of those parties which are dedicated to repeal of Prohibition 2.0 are Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich. Only the Green Party has a stated party plank of repeal of Prohibition 2.0.

    It’s too bad that Obama has cast off his populist past in favor of Crony Capitalist special interests — does he actually remember that lucky happenstance that he, as a young adult involved in the consumption of marijuana and cocaine, was not arrested, prosecuted, and convicted as a drug abuser — no college, no law school, and no Presidency even possible in that alternate future.

  4. ray christl thc min>[email protected] on

    If you don’t love people with our sacred seeds of hemp,flax,chia and other viable embryonic delights are positive truth that doesn’t feed the FEAR=WAR paradigm.your noble smoke-out an office of BUSH-CIA-MAFIA enjoins the propaganda media to further enslave us. The DOG KILLERS are coming,muzzle all pets ,yet your muzzle is anonymous nation and MARC EMERY.Smoking is the least effective way to HEAL.

  5. ray christl THC Ministry on

    The SWAT NATION with 50,000 (x 800 man hours each) actions per year comes to Canada the land of Mr.Emery and family of anonymous.Secret vote help you out after the smoke-in rally of anonymity.Proud you can grow hemp but not teach to eat for super health.Master RickSimpson mentioned one time magazine.Who gave the orders to never cover THOMAS JAMES selling canadian hemp achene from HEMP USA .org.Implore Marc to expand the viewpoint of cc body politic.50.000 swat team raids divided by 365=THOUSANDS OF DEAD FAMILY PETS

  6. Anonymous on

    You All Know POLITICIANS are not trustworthy, he just got felt sorry for because of his race to help him get some backup!!!!! He’s not up to PAR!

  7. Anonymous on

    Obama is backed by muslims and has ties to the oil families in what used to be Persia, so he has money to burn… plus i see him leaving michigan and california to produce for all the pot for the U.S.

  8. Anonymous on

    How long is it going to be until Obama care requires us all to piss in a cup for our “complex and dynamic public health challenge”? Mark my words, his healthcare plan WILL try to push some sort of control like that through. Government health care WILL most definitely attempt exercise some sort of forced control over the things we put in our bodies. Something rotten is afoot me thinks. I think we haven’t seen the best the government has to throw at us. Goodbye Medical Marijuana when they get their hands on healthcare over the next decade. You don’t really think they will just let that alone do you?

  9. Anonymous on

    With the way hes handling the Gulf of Mexico oil crisis, I am not at all surprised to see that hes not bringing anything new to the drug war.
    All his politics is sinking in the sea along with the crude oil just to leave a trail of death at the bottom that hes trying hard to hide to the public.
    I predict hes not going to be around for a long time.
    BP stands for Barrack’s Problem.

  10. Anonymous on

    ****Cool Aid.

    Thanks, and goodbye.

  11. Anonymous on

    Well;consider your self a kook aid drinker..
    you were brainwashed.
    Why would you actually think this man would do anything beneficial?

    And spelling is spot on btw

  12. Anonymous on

    Yknow, i once had faith in this man. I once said “this is the man for the job”. But i guess i was misled by flashy speeches and campiegn ads. I guess change is the Obama word or do the same fucking thing as everyone else.