For immediate release: January 31, 2011
Contact: Washington DC Headquarters (202)293-4414, San Francisco Headquarters (415)875-9463
Statement in YouTube online town hall meeting called step in right direction, but still not enough
Washington, D.C. — Officials at Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) today praised President Barack Obama’s statement last week indicating that drug prohibition is “an entirely legitimate topic for debate.” Obama’s comments came Thursday in response to a question from former Seattle narcotics detective Mackenzie Allen, whose question about repealing drug prohibition received the most votes in an online competition hosted by YouTube.
Responding to Allen’s question about regulating and taxing drugs to cut down on black market profits, President Obama said, “I think this is an entirely legitimate topic for debate…I am a strong believer that we have to think more about drugs as a public health problem.” Obama continued, “On drugs I think that a lot of times we’ve been so focused on arrests, incarceration, interdiction, that we don’t spend as much time thinking about how do we shrink demand. This is something that within the White House we are looking at very carefully…look[ing] at what we’re doing when we have nonviolent first-time drug offenders. Are there ways that we can steer them to the straight and narrow without automatically resorting to incarceration?”
Drug policy reform advocates highlighted the stark contrast between Obama’s recent comments and his laughing dismissal of marijuana legalization the last time drug policy came up at an online town hall event.
“This marks a historic turning point in the White House’s rhetoric about taxing and regulating drugs,” said Aaron Houston, executive director of SSDP. “Despite his rejection of legalization, President Obama acknowledged that our current policies don’t work. We’re very glad to see him start to lead the way on this issue.”