Vice President Joe Biden restates US opposition to legalization

With a growing number of Latin American leaders legitimately looking at legalization as a way to end the violence from the failed drug war, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, while meeting leaders in Mexico, tried to convince the region’s leaders that they should keep fighting the decades long war on drugs despite the horrible death toll it is causing. From the New York Times:

He said he sympathized with Latin American leaders who are frustrated over violence tied to the drug trade and with the consumption habits in its biggest market, the United States. But the few potential benefits from legalization, like a smaller prison population, would be offset by problems, including a costly bureaucracy to regulate the drugs and new addicts, Mr. Biden said.

“I think it warrants a discussion. It is totally legitimate,” he said. “And the reason it warrants a discussion is, on examination you realize there are more problems with legalization than with nonlegalization.”

Even though Biden called the debate on legalization “legitimate,” he confirmed that the Obama administration would never consider changing its position on drug legalization.

While Biden’s statements and rather pathetic defense of the drug war are deeply disappointing, it is another sign that the administration can no longer simply ignore the issue.  In just the past few years the failed drug war has cost the lives of over 50,000 people in Mexico. Rapidly growing national support for marijuana legalization and increasing international pressure to end the violence caused by prohibition are forcing the US government to take part in the debate and try to defend its failed war on drugs on its merits.

In trying to stop the push for legalization, Biden had to at least acknowledge that it is a “legitimate” policy question for governments to examine. Simply starting a real open debate on the merits of a policy is almost always the first important step to eventual reform.

With a growing number of Latin American leaders seriously looking at legalization as a way to end the violence from the failed drug war, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, while meeting leaders in Mexico, tried to convince the region’s leaders that they should keep fighting the decades long war on drugs despite the horrible death toll it is causing. From the New York Times:

He said he sympathized with Latin American leaders who are frustrated over violence tied to the drug trade and with the consumption habits in its biggest market, the United States. But the few potential benefits from legalization, like a smaller prison population, would be offset by problems, including a costly bureaucracy to regulate the drugs and new addicts, Mr. Biden said.

“I think it warrants a discussion. It is totally legitimate,” he said. “And the reason it warrants a discussion is, on examination you realize there are more problems with legalization than with nonlegalization.”

Even though Biden called the debate on legalization “legitimate,” he confirmed that the Obama administration would never consider changing its position on drug legalization.

While Biden’s statements and rather pathetic defense of the drug war are deeply disappointing, it is another sign that the administration can no longer simply ignore the issue.  In just the past few years the failed drug war has cost the lives of over 50,000 people in Mexico. Rapidly growing national support for marijuana legalization and increasing international pressure to end the violence caused by prohibition are forcing the US government to take part in the debate and try to defend its failed war on drugs on its merits.

In trying to stop the push for legalization, Biden had to at least acknowledge that it is a “legitimate” policy question for governments to examine. Simply starting a real open debate on the merits of a policy is almost always the first important step to eventual reform.

Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com