Author: Justin Mckibben
So as much as I personally like to stay out of politics, this information interested me about the way some of our most powerful politicians feel about the growing issue in America with our War on Drugs and whether some believe it has so far been a failed endeavor.
There have been reports that even our commander and chief of the nation has continued to speak out against some of the policies he feels are most counterproductive in the search for a resolution to the drug crisis.
In the press, President Barack Obama is persistent in trying to speak out against the war on drugs, and the president has also made a call for a reform in policies.
In a new YouTube interview, Obama made statements that he believes by treating drug use as a criminal problem, it is being “counterproductive” to the real issue. President Obama went even further by saying that nonviolent drug offenders should be receiving drug and alcohol treatment to help solve the problem, instead of sentencing them to jail time which only prolongs the suffering.
Pushing for Progress
Obama has been in the new several times in the last year alone for his efforts to change the way that drug law policies are enforced. Recently those actions have included:
- Asking policymakers at all levels of government to evaluate ways to reduce the number of people currently incarcerated
- Working with the Department of Education to reduce “zero tolerance” discipline policies regarding drugs
- Supporting efforts in Congress to reduce punitive sentencing
Obama was also in the public eye when he restated his stance that the federal government will not interfere with the legal marijuana industry in states that have permitted it. While he was not making any indication of supporting legalized marijuana for the entire country, he did show support for states like Washington and Colorado.
“We still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. What I am doing at the federal level is asking my Department of Justice just to examine generally how we are treating nonviolent drug offenders. Instead of focusing on treatment, we’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. It’s been counterproductive and it has been devastating in a lot of minority communities.”
So although the president did not in any capacity make moves toward legalizing marijuana at the federal level, Obama did however make headlines in January of 2013 by stating in another interview that he didn’t believe marijuana was more dangerous than alcohol.
Opinion on Prison
It seems that Obama’s biggest concern with current policy is that too many people are being put into a criminal system for possessing or consuming illicit substances, and that being sentenced to long terms of prison for nonviolent drug offenses is wasting an opportunity for real reform. He has recently been pushing for more utilization of ‘drug court’ policies for people using drugs.
The president has even admitted to using marijuana in his younger years, but he calls it “a bad idea.” He expressed concern and said he was troubled that poor kids, many of them African Americans and Latinos, are far more likely to get locked up for smoking marijuana than middle-class kids. However the president does suggest a more cautious approach, saying people who think legalizing weed will solve social problems are “probably overstating the case.”
The Obama administration requested over $10.7 billion back in 2013 to help support drug education programs across the nation, as well as to increase treatment availability. The president also made amendments to the Affordable Care Act which required insurance companies to cover treatment for substance abuse disorders, so to that extent it seems that Obama means what he says when he talks about shifting the focus to treatment instead of punishment.
Some people however feel this is not enough of a public health approach. Critics believe that while it may make some difference, it is still lacking the versatility that could be achieved by putting more efforts toward harm reduction policies. Many speculate that 2015 will be a big year for harm reduction, so maybe as these things change and policy remains a bigger issue, we will see a more flexible perspective.
Not everyone agrees with the way the War on Drugs has worked out, and far too many people have lost their lives as part of that statistic, but what we can all agree on is the need for change and the importance of getting the people who need it the right treatment to save their lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135