Obama and the War on Drugs

In this Reason article, Jacob Sullum documents the Obama administration’s disappointing record on the War on Drugs. Although as a Senator and presidential candidate Obama expressed strong support for liberalizing drug laws, as president he has done almost nothing on that score, and in some areas he has even tightened up enforcement. The administration has even reneged on the president’s popular campaign promise to end medical marijuana raids in states where medical marijuana is legal under state law.

It would be wrong to blame Obama alone for policies that have developed over the course of several decades. Nor would it be realistic to expect him to end the War on Drugs in one fell swoop. The real tragedy of his record in this area is that he has not even taken incremental steps that enjoy strong popular support, such as legalizing medical marijuana and cutting back on draconian sentences for low-level drug offenders. Even full legalization of marijuana gets about 46% support in polls, which is a higher level of popularity than Obama himself enjoys right now. It’s also worth noting that Obama has backtracked on his previous commitments on the War on Drugs at the very time when lots of prominent groups are calling for an end to the War.

The administration does deserve credit for curbing drug interdiction in Afghanistan, which had previously done much to undermine the War on Terror there. On the home front, however, the Administration’s War on Drugs policy has been a disappointment to all but committed drug warriors.