White House Drug Control Policy Director R. Gil Kerlikowske shot down a question Monday about softening views on marijuana policy, saying the administration believes that neither "legalization" nor "decriminalization" are viable solutions to deal with the nation's "problem."
Kerlikowske was giving a speech on declining foreign drug production and domestic consumption rates during a forum at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. After announcing that Colombia had tumbled down the ranks of cocaine-producing nations -- now behind Peru and Bolivia -- Kerlikowske faced a question from an audience member who criticized the administration's continued prioritization of marijuana enforcement despite evidence that it is far less harmful than legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco.
Kerlikowske responded with an aggressive rebuttal against the legalization and decriminalization arguments. He said such an approach would likely lead to increased marijuana use and levels of addiction, which he claimed would put further strain on domestic infrastructure designed to deal with drug dependency. Kerlikowske went on to claim that the administration didn't think "locking everyone up for marijuana" was a solution, but he maintained that "legalization isn't going to solve our drug problem."
While the scientific studies on cannabis dependence have suggested some level of addictiveness, the cost of enforcing a prohibition on marijuana continues to be a common argument against the current policy.
Nearly 758,600 Americans were arrested in 2010 for simple possession. That was about 88 percent of all marijuana arrests that year. In fact, more than half of all drug arrests in 2010 stemmed from marijuana-related offenses. All of this takes a serious economic toll on law enforcement, corrections facilities and the legal system.
Other economic studies have found that legalizing marijuana could produce federal savings of nearly $14 billion. While there have been suggestions that President Barack Obama would scale back the drug war if elected to a second term, actions such as the mounting federal crackdowns on medical marijuana dispensaries have led drug policy reformers to remain skeptical.