President Obama’s Views on Drug Abuse

Since the failure of Proposition 19 in California, there has been an explosion of questions concerning President Obama’s views on drugs—and what he planned to do about it. With the upcoming election looming ahead, the questions come out in full force.

Broken Promises

In 2008, President Obama pledged not to interfere with state laws governing the issue of medical marijuana, insisting that it was an issue best left to state and local governments.

“I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” he vowed, promising to end the Bush administration’s high-profile raids on providers or medical pot.

Tthe president failed to keep his promise: over the past 3 years, the Obama administration has unleashed more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries—exceeding Bush’s record for medical-marijuana busts. 

Yet amidst the criticism, President Obama says he will refocus on America’s drug war if he wins a second term.

What's Obama's Plan for the Second Term?

Even though the topic of drug abuse has been overshadowed by matters concerning healthcare and economy, the President has voiced several goals concerning “the war on drugs.”

Reducing the Demand

If anything else, one thing is definitely clear: the President is not in favor of drug legalization.

Even though he admits the “war on drugs” has not been effective, legalization, such as marijuana legalization, would not reduce cartel violence in Mexico. Instead, the focus should go beyond the manifestations of the problem—violence, arrests, incarceration and interdiction—to the cause of the problem: the demand for drugs.

"We can reduce the demand for drugs by treating it as more of a public health problem, such as smoking or drinking," said to President Obama in an interview with CNN. “We’ve made huge strides over the last 20-30 years by changing people’s attitudes on [the issues of smoking or drunk driving]."

Resources for Those in Need

In other words, more resources should go towards drug rehabilitation so those looking for help do not have to wait months for assistance. The president also said there should be a way of steering nonviolent, first-time drug offenders “into the straight and narrow.”

Reducing Barriers

One common barrier for people trying to re-enter society is that federal financial aid is not available to students who have been convicted of drug-related offenses. This, obviously, makes it very difficult for those trying to get back on their feet to go back to school. The Obama administration would like to pull down that barrier.

Prescription Drug Prevention Plan

The 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan attempts to reduce prescription drug abuse in four ways: 

  1. Education of parents, youth and patients about the dangers of prescription drugs
  2. Monitoring: implementing the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in every state to reduce doctor shopping
  3. Proper Medication Disposal
  4. Enforcement: the necessary tools to eliminate improper prescription practices and stop pill mills

A “Smart Policy”

Kevin Sabet, top drug policy adviser in the Obama administration, informed Huffington Post  in July that there are other significant ways the President can implement a “smart policy," including

  • Making sure people in recovery are not still paying for past actions that do not represent their current lifestyle.
  • Meaningful investment in law enforcement innovations that use the threat of short jail stays to enforce treatment and abstinence.

“Though it’s not the kind of reform legalization advocates might have wanted, the President’s drug policy has already been innovative, public health-oriented, and cost-effective,” Sabet said.

Will Obama Follow Through?

While all this sounds good and true, the aforementioned marijuana crackdown last April has people wondering if this is all “just talk.”

In the same Huffington article, Tom Angell, spokesman for Law Enforcement against Prohibition, said he’d believe it when he’d see it.

“The problem is: the drug control budget still overwhelmingly devotes more resources to old, failed punishment strategies than effective treatment and prevention strategies. The rhetoric doesn’t match the reality," said Angell. 

So what will happen? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Obama vs. Romney Views on Drug Abuse

Although Romney has rarely spoken on the issue of drug abuse, he also stresses the importance of reducing drug demand at home. When confronted with the issue of Mexico’s drug war, Romney echoed Obama’s policy. 

The Republican candidate conceded that the United States is partly responsible for the drug violence in Mexico, and in order to alleviate the situation, the U.S. must focus on reducing the demand for drugs at home.

“The president of the United States must make a priority of helping reduce demand in this country, and communicating to our young people, and older people, that when they use these illegal drugs, they are contributing to the deaths of people around the world," Romney said on Univision TV Network last month. 

Since Romney has decided to focus on the bigger issues of economy and healthcare, it is unlikely we will hear additional details regarding his view on drug abuse any time soon.

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