– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –
Barack Obama, January 21, 2004: “The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws…we need to rethink how we’re operating in the drug war. Currently, we are not doing a good job.”
Amen to that!
Since President Richard Nixon first declared war on drugs in 1969, seven successive administrations have spent billions upon billions on eradicating drug crops abroad, blocking shipments at the country’s borders, and enforcing tough drug laws at home. They failed to curb demand or throttle supplies.
Obama made his assessment of the drug war during a debate at Northwestern University, near Chicago, when he was running for a seat in the U.S. Senate, a key stage in his meteoric political career. Now that Obama is nearing the end of his first year in office as president of the United States, how much rethinking has there been and how good a job is his administration doing on the drug war?
The record is mixed but after decades during which the words common sense and drug policy never fit into the same sentence, American attitudes towards drug prohibition – and above all, punitive laws on marijuana – are changing too fast for policymakers and legislators to ignore.