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January 27, 2011

Drug policy discussed by President Obama after YouTube questions

As detailed in this CBS News piece, which is headlined "Obama: Drugs Should be Treated as a Public Health Problem," President Obama today gave a serious answer to some serious questions about federal drug policies:

Responding to a deluge of questions regarding marijuana and drug policy that came from YouTube, President Obama today said he is not in favor of drug legalization.  However, acknowledging that the "war on drugs" has not been effective, Mr. Obama said he thinks of drugs as "more of a public health problem."

More than 140,000 questions were submitted to the president on the video website for his virtual question-and-answer session today.  YouTube visitors cast more than 1 million votes, rating the questions positively or negatively.  According to the Huffington Post, 198 of the 200 highest-rated questions related to drug policy.

While drug policy is hardly a top priority in Washington, Mr. Obama said it is an "entirely legitimate topic for debate."...  Mr. Obama said ... that focusing the United States' drug policy on arrests, incarceration and interdiction has not had ideal results. Instead, he said, there should be more focus on decreasing demand for drugs, by treating them as other public health concerns like smoking or drunk driving.  "Typically, we've made huge strides over the last 20 to 30 years by changing people's attitudes" on those issues, he said.

The same is not true for illegal drugs.  The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health released last year showed that the rate of illicit drug use rose from 8 percent in 2008 to 8.7 percent in 2009.

Mr. Obama said today that more resources could go towards drug rehabilitation so that those looking for help from a drug treatment program do not have to wait for months for assistance. He also said there should be a way of steering nonviolent, first-time drug offenders "into the straight and narrow."

January 27, 2011 at 07:04 PM | Permalink


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One way of steering nonviolent, first-time drug offenders "into the straight and narrow" is to make it thoroughly unpleasant to be anyplace else.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 27, 2011 7:19:53 PM


There are none so blind, as they who will not see!

Spank a bottom, take away driving priveledges, OK!

Years in prison where you will likely be raped? NO!

You ARE the problem!

Posted by: albeed | Jan 27, 2011 11:54:35 PM

albeed --

I had not previously been aware that "thoroughly unpleasant" equated with "years in prison where you will likely be raped," but then I lack your clairvoyance.

P.S. I love that "BO" thing. Brings back fond memories of fourth grade. Is that about where you are?

P.P.S. You might want to take up your concerns with the more prominent "BO," that being the President. You know, the guy who says legalization is not in the picture.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 28, 2011 3:05:03 AM

The current situation is not effective except to generate massive amounts of government jobs. I am neutral as to which direction to take, draconian, effective prohibition or legalization. I just oppose the current setup, succeeding only at rent seeking and funding enemies of the US by keeping prices high.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 28, 2011 9:25:24 AM

Bill, what would be an appropriate sentence for a first conviction of possession of marijuana for personal use? What's enough to "make it thoroughly unpleasant to be anyplace else"?

Posted by: Cheqster | Jan 28, 2011 12:17:05 PM

Cheqster --

$100 fine, which was the routine penalty for the offense you describe when I was an AUSA in the EDVA.

Wanna ask me what the sentence should be for repeat sales of meth to a 15 year-old, turning her into a hopeless prostitute and addict?

No? Not too interested in that?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 28, 2011 3:04:45 PM

I am interested in that! Is it a different sentence if she doesn't become a hopeless prostitute?

Posted by: Cheqster | Jan 28, 2011 7:34:51 PM

That's it, Cheqster, only good things happen to people hooked on meth.

Just let me ask you straight up. Do you think people who sell meth to teenagers deserve serious jailtime?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 28, 2011 8:13:59 PM

"Serious" is kind of subjective, and I'd say there's a difference between selling meth to a 13-year-old and an 18-year-old, so that's kind of a hard question to answer. But to help you make your point, yes, meth is bad.

Posted by: Cheqster | Jan 28, 2011 9:05:56 PM

There are no good, legitimate reasons to keep marijuana illegal. The original racial impetus has long been subsumed into a pretend "public health and safety" justification, even though marijuana is not a substantial danger to public health or safety. But legalizing it would threaten too many entrenched interests: prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, private prisons, prison guard unions, and politicians who see drug users as easy fodder for electioneering will never look at the issue rationally. Obama's response to the overwhelming number of anti-prohibition questions typifies this attitude: on one hand, drug use is a health issue, on the other hand, we should still lock people up over it, because, you know, why not. What is offensive is that an issue that affects such a broad range of Americans is treated almost as if it were a joke by people like Mr. Obama. Apparently, in a country that pretends to value freedom, the idea that people should be free to use a virtually harmless substance simply because it makes them feel good is some sort of anathema.

Posted by: anonymous | Jan 29, 2011 12:12:47 AM

It is true when President Obama said that drugs should be treated as public health problem. I once got addicted to drugs. It was very hard for me to stop from that vice. I am glad that the president is not ignoring the issue.

Posted by: Elaine Moore | Dec 10, 2012 8:32:49 PM

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