On 28 January 2011, in response to a video question from a former deputy sheriff about whether it is time to discuss legalising and regulating drugs in light of the failure of the "war on drugs," President Barack Obama said that it is "an entirely legitimate topic for debate" but that he is not in favor of legalisation.
The President then went on to say that he sees drug abuse as a public health issue and that a shifting of resources is required, away from the traditional approach of incarcerating non violent drug offenders.
"The president talks a good game about shifting resources and having a balanced, public health-oriented approach, but it doesn't square with the budgets he's submitted to Congress," said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of cops, judges and prosecutors who support legalising and regulating drugs. "The Obama administration has maintained the Bush-era two-to-one budget ratio in favor of prisons and prosecution over treatment and prevention. It doesn't add up. Still, it's historic that the president of the United States is finally saying that legalising and regulating drugs is a topic worthy of discussion. But since the president remains opposed to legalisation, it's clear that the people are going to have to lead the way. Police officers and innocent civilians are dying every single day in this drug war; it's not a back-burner issue."
The president's comments today, part of a forum organised by YouTube where people could submit and vote on questions, came in response to a question from MacKenzie Allen, a LEAP member and a retired deputy sheriff who did policing in Los Angeles, CA and King County (Seattle), WA. Allen's question got the most votes in the contest, garnering twice as many as the second most-popular question.
Click here to view the video of Obama's interview on war on drugs, including need to move the focus to health and away from enforcement.