Obama on drugs: I support the debate but not legalization

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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During a Youtube question and answer session Thursday, a member of the pro-drug legalization group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition asked President Obama if he supported a debate on the merits of drug legalization.

Mackenzie Allen, a retired police officer, asked from Massachusetts: “do you think there will, or should, come a time for us to discuss the possibility of legalization, regulation, and control of all drugs, thereby doing away with a violent criminal market as well as a major source of funding for international terrorism?”

Obama responded, “I think this is an entirely legitimate topic for debate,” but that “I am not in favor of legalization.”

“I am a strong believer that we need to think more about drugs as a public health problem,” Obama said. He said that public opinion needed to be cultivated toward recognition of the harmful affects of drugs, in a manner similar to efforts to increase awareness of drunk driving and the need to wear seat belts.

The president also said that current policy focuses too heavily on law enforcement. “On drugs, I think that a lot of times we have been so focused on arrests, incarcerations…that we don’t spend as much time thinking about how to shrink demand”

Obama’s response contained no indication of an impending pivot of the issue, as did his recent statement that his view on same-sex marriage was “evolving.”

Obama has openly acknowledged his past use of marijuana and cocaine. In an interview before the 2008 presidential election, he said, “when I was a kid, I inhaled, frequently. That was the point!”

WATCH: Obama Says Legalizing Drugs is Worthy of Debate: