Understanding Obama’s “War on Drugs”

By Neill Franklin, Executive Director, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)

Last month I was interviewed on CNN.com as part of the network’s coverage of the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon declaring the “war on drugs.” It was just one of thousands of articles, broadcasts and blog posts featuring the voices of police officers, politicians and scholars marking an anniversary that offers little to celebrate. Many commentators across the political spectrum eagerly welcomed the opportunity to seriously examine the failures of our drug policies, evaluate possible reforms and opine on what it all might mean.

But not everyone was as excited by the opportunity for reflection on how we can make drug policy more effective. After reading my interview on CNN.com, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy apparently contacted the news organization and demanded equal time to defend the Obama administration’s continuation of U.S. drug prohibition policies.

The published response presents a rare and revealing window into the thinking behind the nation’s drug policy at the beginning of the fifth decade of the “war on drugs.” The transcript is of great interest to anyone who wants to understand why — despite clear scientific evidence, real-world experience and political opportunity — a policy that is so obviously failed and is so profoundly harmful is able to continue year after year.