President Obama on Thursday said America’s decades-long war on drugs has been “unproductive” and that sending low-level narcotics offenders to prison tears apart families and leads to even more crime.
Speaking at a town-hall meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, the president said U.S. drug policy must be revamped. But he also said it’s unlikely the U.S. will take steps to decriminalize or legalize marijuana anytime in the near future.
“I am a very strong believer that the path we have taken in the United States in the so-called war on drugs has been so heavy in emphasizing incarceration that it has been counterproductive,” he said. “You have young people who did not engage in violence who get very long penalties, who get placed in prison and then are rendered economically unemployable, are almost pushed into the underground economy, learn crime more effectively in prison — families are devastated. So it’s been very unproductive.”
Mr. Obama also praised “unlikely allies” on Capitol Hill — presumably referring to Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, among others — who want to work with the administration on reforming the nation’s drug sentencing practices.
The president also said the federal government will keep a close eye on how marijuana legalization works out in Colorado and Washington, but he does not expect major overhauls in national policy in the next several years.
“We will see how that experiment works its way through the process. Right now it is not federal policy and I do not foresee anytime soon Congress changing the law at a national basis,” he said.