Thursday, January 27, 2011

Obama says legalising drugs a "Legitimate Topic for Debate"

The following press release has been issued by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) . Whilst some way from a shift in policy it is at least a significant shift in tone, especially given the US Drug Tsar's insistence that 'legalization is not in the president's vocabulary nor is it in mine'.

Well, here he is talking about it, and certainly not laughing it off like the last time he was asked. He specifically says he doesnt support legalisation, but certainly seems to be edging towards some form of decriminalisation of use. Progress then, albeit small steps. And as LEAP make clear - its important for actions to match words. 

Still, lets have that debate.......

here's the video:

CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc

Obama Says Legalizing Marijuana and Other Drugs a "Legitimate Topic for Debate"

President Says We Need to Shift to Public Health Focus, But His Budgets Haven't Done That

WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, in response to a video question from a former deputy sheriff about whether it is time to discuss legalizing 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 legalization.

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 nonviolent 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 legalizing 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 legalizing and regulating drugs is a topic worthy of discussion. But since the president remains opposed to legalization, 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 organized 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.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. More info at


danielcarter said...

Why does US government wants to keep prohibition? If it is not to protect the public or reduce crime, what other (unnamed) motives might the US government have to keep the prohibition of certain chemicals, plants and mushrooms?

strayan said...

Dear Mr President

The reason we have changed peoples attitudes about smoking tobacco is BECAUSE IT IS LEGAL and that means we can TAX AND REGULATE IT (e.g. plaster the stuff with health warnings, control who sells it, how it’s advertised etc).

Look what happened after California passed Prop 99 (to tax and regulate tobacco) in 1988:

“The adult smoking prevalence declined by more than 40% from 22.7% to 13.3% [today]“

Why in gods name do you refuse to tax and regulate cannabis just the same?

Anonymous said...

If LEAP and Mackenzie Allen thing that legalisation of any illegal drug would "do away with the criminal market" in that drug as the clip suggests, they are completely wrong.

Of course it easy to see why a US Deputy Sheriff might not have a world view of drug traficking and associated criminality but surely somewhere within LEAP there IS someone who understands criminality?

The massive criminality that exist worldwide in tobacco goods?

The criminality massive and increasing, particularly in the US, in otherwise legal pharmaceuticals?

LEAP and Transform have been wrong about this for years.

Jake said...


A black market might remain, but it would be substantially reduced. Plus, the rates of crime, corruption and disease associated illicit sources would massively reduce.

I think you can agree that although there is a black market for tobacco, the profits that can be made from it is not nearly enough to finance destabilisation of entire states i.e. Mexico, Columbia, Afganistan...

I would love to hear your suggestion for reducing crime and harm to populations by allowing criminals to profit from prohibition...

strayan said...

Globally, an upper limit of 8.5% of tobacco sold is estimated to be sold on the black market.


If we tobacco were prohibited worldwide then 100% of tobacco would be sold on the black market.

What's better? I policy that results in a small black market or a policy that increases the size of the black market 10 fold?

Remember there are many other products that are sold on the black market e.g. petrol. It is strange that anyone would suggest that the black market can be eliminated by a prohibition on all black market goods.

Danny K said...


I think you miss the point of this blog.

Obama has been dismissive of the debate in the past and has now changed his message. In terms of the debate this is significant.

On your specific point about involvement of organised crime:

There will always be involvement in all trades from organised criminals. Think about alcohol prohibition in twenties and thirties America; the prohibition gifted the almost the entire trade to criminal profiteers. Once relegalised, almost all of the trade returned to legalality as the margins disappeared.

The same would be the case for relegalised drugs.

As another counterfactual - look at the legal opiates market. What is the level of involvement of organised criminals?

They're not interested in the legal market. The profits and opportunity aren't there. They migrate toward the illegal market because of the profit margins and opportunity.

Remove these and they will be forced by economics to move into other areas. I'm sure that illegal businesses, like legal ones do, are constantly exploring the need to diversify their portfolios in the face of a potential squeeze on margins.

Anonymous said...


How many illegal tobacco dealers have you heard paying off elected officials to ensure safe passage of their product? How many of these dealers would have the capacity to offer bribes in the millions of dollars? By planes and engineer submarines to transport goods? To put it bluntly, how many times have you seen x-rays of humans internally smuggling fake Marlboro lights?

See, like most prohibitionists, your argument is clouted by bias and ignorance. While these may be both classified as black-market, the market factors driving each trade is vastly different, giving vastly different results. Although evidence today suggests that smuggling networks created for drug distribution are today also carrying counterfeit goods, this is where the overlap stops.

You dont by illegal tobacco products in gram baggies and you dont see illegal Viagra dealers hacking body parts of rivals. Because legal alternatives exists, the profits these people can make are capped and their markets are narrowed. This limits the geographical distribution of the product (usually shipped with other counterfeit goods) and the trafficking organisations distribution size (1-5man shows). When you are offering something that can be bought for 3 pounds off the shelf, you cant afford seizures, limit your distribution range and sure as hell cant afford a gold plated glock (unless its a counterfeit one ;) )

Dr Russell Newcombe said...

Legal regulation of drugs may a legitimate topic for debate in the USA, but not in the UK. Today (1/2/11) Sir David Omand's 'Report of the 2010 NDPB Review of the Advisory Council on the
Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)' was released. It makes it clear that (1) the ACMD is a group of government-appointed experts (so you won't find any/many anti-prohibitionists on it - have you seen the latest list LOL); and, to quote, (2) "It could ... be that occasionally a different opinion to that of the ACMD on policy might legitimately be reached by Ministers (advised by Departmental policy officials), even where there is no disputing the science... In the end, and subject to the will of Parliament, the Minister’s decision is then final" (paragraph 21).
In short, the government appoints largely prohibition-supporters to be members of the ACMD, and should they unexpectedly come up with any advice the government disagrees with, the government is free to reject it (as it always has done).
Consider this(paragraph 24, footnote 22): "The only classification recommendations that were not accepted and acted upon by government were in 1978 (Cannabis from B to C) and 2009 (Cannabis to stay at C and Ecstasy from A to B)". In other words, the government accepts any ACMD advice to ban a drug or to upgrade the classification of a drug (eg. from B to A), but has rejected the rare advice the ACMD has ever made to downgrade the classification of a drug or make it legally available.
I can only draw one conclusion from this: the ACMD is a sham, a toothless dog for the government to pat on the head when it agrees with what the government has already decided. Our drug policy and drug laws have nothing to do with science or reason, and everything to do with politics and corruption. Sir David Omand has now made this fact explicit and public. ACMD: Advisory Council on the Manipulation of Dogma.

Bruce said...

Eventually most, if not all, recreational drugs will be decriminalised. The current situation is patently absurd on so many levels. I have recently written an article explaining this:
We now have the example of countries where drug use has been decriminalised and it was not the end of the world.

Anonymous said...

There's a great call for legalization (and exposé of the asset seizure scam) over at the American Mercury:

Anonymous said...

"U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told Mexican reporters that drugs like marijuana can never be legalized because "there is just too much money in it." Displaying a complete lack of understanding concerning basic economics and simple common sense, Clinton foolishly tried to claim that legalization would benefit criminal drug lords, despite the fact that simple supply and demand proves otherwise.

"You can legalize small amounts for possession, but those who are making so much money selling, they have to be stopped," Clinton said. "They can't be given an even easier road to take, because they will then find it in their interest to addict even more young people."

Learn more:

Keep up the good work chaps (& chapettes)