Press Release  | 02/01/2011

Drug Czar Outlines President Obama's "Public Health" Approach to Drug Policy in Huff Post Piece

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Drug Czar Expands on Obama's Comments on Last Week's YouTube "Town Hall" Regarding Legalization

DPA Says Drug Czar's Policies Need to Match Rhetoric: 750,000 Arrested for Marijuana Possession Last Year, No Acknowledgement of Harms from Drug Prohibition, Including Tens of Thousands of Murders

President Obama's Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, wrote a piece today for the Huffington Post where he claims the Obama Administration's drug polices are based on a public health approach and that we can't incarcerate our way out of the drug problem. The Drug Czar builds on President Obama's response last week to a question during his YouTube "town hall" where he said drug legalization is an "entirely legitimate topic for debate," even though he is opposed to it.

Obama's comments on legalization were in response to a question from MacKenzie Allen, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a retired deputy sheriff with law enforcement experience in Los Angeles. Mr. Allen had the top ranked question out of the 193,000 submitted. Amazingly, 198 of the top 200 most popular questions to the President all had to do with legalizing marijuana and drug policy reform.

The Drug Policy Alliance's Bill Piper, releases the following statement in response to the President and Drug Czar's policies:

"It is clear that President Obama and his drug czar are responding to the growing movement calling for alternatives to the failed war on drugs. It's great that their rhetoric is about treating drug use as a health issue instead of criminal justice issue but their actions still don't match their words. There were more than 1.6 million drug arrests in the U.S. last year alone. The vast majority of these arrests were for mere possession, including more than 760,000 arrests for small amounts of marijuana. Arresting people who use marijuana or others drugs is not treating drug use as a health issue.

In addition to the consequences of mass incarceration, the prohibition of marijuana and other drugs also empowers organized crime in the same way alcohol Prohibition did. More than 30,000 people in Mexico have died since the country's escalation of the war on drugs four years ago. An unknown number of Americans have also died as a result of prohibition-related violence, including many law enforcement officers. Yet both the drug czar and President Obama refuse to acknowledge that it is drug prohibition that is creating the violence and chaos that we see in Mexico and at home."

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper at 202-669-6430

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