Lawrence O’Donnell Is Delusional To Think President Obama Would End War On Drugs


I want to know what Lawrence O’Donnell is smoking.

It must be something really good, because he is absolutely delusional to think that President Obama would end the War on Drugs if granted a second term.

Why? Because the president’s track record proves otherwise.

In 2008, candidate Obama said, “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on [medical marijuana].” He rightfully bemoaned America’s high drug incarceration rate (which disproportionately harms blacks), and advocated a “public health” approach to drugs, which emphasizes treatment over imprisonment.

The president does deserve credit for reducing the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.

But since taking office, he has repeatedly broken all his other promises on the drug war. If anything, the administration has been more aggressive than President Bush in ramping up the war on medical marijuana dispensaries. Since 2009, legal pot sellers in California, Colorado, Montana, and Washington have been threatened by the DOJ, audited by the IRS, and shut down by the DEA.

And earlier this year, the Obama DOJ made its priorities clear, issuing a warning that “the department of Justice has the authority to enforce federal law even when such activities may be permitted under state law. Persons … who operate or facilitate the operation of such dispensaries are subject to criminal prosecution…” The threats have effectively prevented states like Delaware from moving forward with licensing dispensaries under newly-passed state laws.

And just today, the president’s Drug Czar office released its 2012 National Drug Control Strategy. The policy set forth? More business-as-usual.

The president’s policy decisions may indicate an unwillingness to change course, but let’s not forget the way he shrugged off (and laughed off) serious questions from the public about drug policy. In a 2009 virtual town hall, when online voters picked a question about whether legalizing marijuana would help improve the economy, the president mocked the voters and ridiculed the proposition.

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that the federal government would save $41.3 billion per year if we legalized, taxed and regulated drugs. And that doesn’t include the unseen costs of the drug war, like the militarization of local police forces to the tune of daily SWAT raids like this one (NSFW).

The president’s mockery of the question also shows, in my view, a fundamental ignorance of the success of Portugal’s drug liberalization. Ten years ago, the country decriminalized all drugs. Since then, studies found that problematic and youth drug use decreased. And overall drug use stayed about the same.

I would really love for O’Donnell to be right on this. And I will happily eat crow if Obama gets re-elected and magically turns back 40 years of bad policy. But, sorry, it’s just not going to happen.

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