Obama's Contradictory Position on the Drug War

At a campaign appearance in Jacksonville, FL, Barack Obama proposed federal drug war funding as a solution to the city’s problems with violent crime:

I will ensure that we fund the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which has been critical to creating the anti-gang and anti-drug task forces our communities need. And I will make sure our federal law enforcement agencies are equipped to fight terrorism and crime by ensuring that the FBI and DEA are appropriately staffed and that federal-local law enforcement task forces have the support they need. [Florida Times-Union]

He said the same thing in New Orleans, thus it’s becoming increasingly clear that Obama really does believe that aggressive drug enforcement can function as a crime control mechanism. For a quick tutorial on how absurd that is, I’d refer him to Mexico, where President Calderon’s attempted crackdown has escalated violence throughout the country with no end in sight.

Moreover, Obama’s praise for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants ignores that program’s role in producing some of the most egregious civil rights catastrophes in modern drug war history. Byrne funding was responsible for the notorious fiascos in Tulia and Hearne, TX, in which large numbers of innocent African-Americans were rounded up and framed for drug crimes. Overwhelming abuse of the program led Texas to ban multi-jurisdictional drug task forces entirely.

Obama’s remarks yesterday are therefore simply impossible to reconcile with his calls for "shifting the paradigm" in the war on drugs. He has frequently called attention to the over-incarceration of non-violent drug offenders, yet now pledges to continue the exact tactics that have played such a prominent role in producing our alarming prison population. As Radley Balko explains:

Because most Byrne grants are also tied directly to drug arrests, they encourage local police departments to use their manpower and resources on nonviolent drug offenses instead of more serious crimes like rape, robbery, or murder.

It seems Obama is trying to have it both ways, scoring points for forward-thinking ideas on incarceration at the national level, while simultaneously promising more policing and drug enforcement to audiences that are concerned about crime. I’d still prefer to think he’s serious about working to reduce our prison population, but he won’t get far without looking at the way our drug laws are enforced. If he plans to dangle federal drug war dollars in front of bloodthirsty local narcotics task forces, you can bet those guys will do what they do best: fill our prisons as fast as they can with anyone they can get their hands on.

That’s just how the drug war works. Politicians fund prohibition. Prohibition funds violence. Politicians feel pressured and fund more prohibition. If Obama wants to change the outcome, he’ll have to change the process.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Why I haven't supported him

This engorgement of the War on Drugs is the primary reason I haven't supported Obama. It's also the best way to convince his supporters to give him a double-take - even non drug users know that the War on Drugs needs to be abolished, not expanded. Most Obama supporters think he's likely to decriminalize until I point them to his own issues page.

Obama may be judged "the lesser of two evils", but that doesn't mean you're off the hook for the evil he brings to office. As long as people keep voting for the two-party system, we'll have a two-party system.

Would you like to give up this right or that? Do you want to pay 34% of you wages to the Federal government, or 39%? Would you rather attack Pakistan or Bolivia? Would you rather die from starvation or exposure?



Biden said he`d ramp up drug war efforts if president. He`ll be vice. So what does he do? What will congress do? The u.s.a. economy could be in the tank but those drug prohibition people will still get their $$$. It`s ugly.

You are absolutely correct

Thinking people must choose to vote for the "third party" candidate on their ballot whose ideals most closely match their own. If there are none such on the ballot, they must either write-in a name (or NOTA -- none of the above) or refrain from voting in that race. No longer shall we vote for Democrats or Republicans who are merely continuing the charade of "choice" in our elective offices, and I'm not just meaning in the presidential and congressional races, I'm talking about ALL races from the top all the way down to the local level.

For more on this idea:

I know we're discussing the drug laws and how to "reform" them in this forum, but here is just one more example of hypocrisy:
McCain has admitted he does not understand economics (and has said more than once that he doesn't even care about the economy, that does not endear him to those of us who have to live in the economy), Now he has an ad on TV that points up the fact that Obama knows nothing about the economy and Obama is, therefore, "not ready to lead".
Pot, kettle, black.

you all talk like mccain is

you all talk like mccain is going to be better in this are... one thing is for sure... HE'S NOT! Not only is he no better in this area, he is no better in ANY area. Vote Obama and the drug war will at least be moved foreward.

McCain isn't the answer...

But Obama isn't a savior.

It's a good thing you have more choices for president.
I wouldn't vote for either of the two "main" tickets.

They're both crap.

Both supported the bailout that over 95% of Americans were against.
Both support eternal occupation over seas (McCain choosing a slightly more aggressive position, but Obama doesn't intend to bring anyone home any time soon.)
Both support the war on drugs - and the war on Terror... two wars against the American people - Concepts, not hard targets, resulting in the elimination and eroding of the rights of the people.
Both support global controls through ties with the UN, NAFTA, NATO, etc - ceding our national sovereignty to authorities that do not recognize human rights in the same way as our Constitution does (The UN charters show the UN to be a collectivist organization; all powers rest within the UN, with grants of privilege being issued to the people - called "rights" but falsely so. For more, see here; http://revolutioni.st/ivc.html )

Either a 3rd party...
Or revolution.
http://revolutioni.st - it's time.
Do something to change the problems.
Stop voting for evil - no matter how much lesser it may seem.

McCain and Obama have a critical difference on medical marijuana

Obama will respect state decisions to allow it and not let the DEA prosecute for its use in those states. Medical marijuana users are the best advertisement possible for marijuana's safety. Most states in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions are likely to have legalized MMJ within the next few years, including Michigan this November. When it finally becomes clear to people that they have been very misled on marijuana's safety, that much terrible unnecessary suffering has gone on because of the ban on MMJ, and that important medical research on marijuana and it's components has been suppressed for generations, I think they will be more willing to consider whether they have been seriously misled about the best way to deal with other illegal drugs as well.


Wrong. Hitler's supporters thought they coud control him once he was in power. Nuff said.

Edward Byrne Grant

The Byrne Grant is nothing more that a bounty to allow law enforcement to continue to raid peoples homes and shoot them and their dogs. Many people have spoken out against the Byrne Grant and Obama knows it. He is going for the law enforcement votes and is showing just what kind of person he is.

I have updated my website and the Bryne Grant is why my website exist. Anyone who still believes in these Grants for law enforcement is a stone cold fool.


(Boring?) Obama

From Tom Hayden:

"One thing is certain: The man will disappoint as well as inspire.
Then why support him? There are three reasons. First, American progressives, radicals and populists need to be part of the vast Obama coalition, not perceived as negative do-nothings in the minds of the young people and African Americans at the center of the organized campaign. Second, his court appointments will keep us from a right-wing lock on social, economic and civil-liberties issues during our lifetime. Third, it should be no problem to vote for Obama and picket his White House when justified.
Obama himself says he has solid progressive roots but that he intends to campaign and govern from the center. (He has said he is neither a "Scoop" Jackson Democrat nor a Tom Hayden Democrat.) What is missing in the current equation, however, is not a capable and enlightened centrist but a progressive social movement. The creative tension between large social movements and enlightened Machiavellian leaders is the historical model that has produced the most important reforms in the course of American history.
Mainstream political leaders will not move to the left of their own base. There are no shortcuts to radical change without a powerful and effective constituency organized from the bottom up. The next chapter in Obama's new American story remains to be written, perhaps by the most visionary of his own supporters."

Consider the alternative. Expect the worst and work for the best.


The alternative(s)?

There's something the media doesn't want you to know: there are FOUR other candidates running for president. They are, Cynthia McKinney (Green), Bob Barr (Libertarian), Ralph Nader (Independent), and Chuck Baldwin (Constitution).

This madness will not stop until enough of us stop voting for those who support it. And when enough of us quit voting for the same old crap, the media will be forced to quit pretending there are only two parties.

Obama has no positive credentials

Obama has no positive credentials. He hasn't run anything. Neitner has McCain or Biden. Only Palin has run a State. She has the most credentials. Like it of not. Anyone who votes for Obama/Biden is voting to continue the war on drugs. Only because they believe that this is what the majority of Americans want. Atleast, if McCain dies we might have some one with some experience to be our president. But, the Electoral College actually votes for and elects our presidents. They have put people in the White House who did not win the popular vote. Which sounds like bribery. So, all this talk about who's going to do what isn't really up to us anyway.

Re: Obama has no positive credentials

And what does McCain and Palin do for drug policy reform? Nada. She already said she doesn't support marijuana legalization. If McCain lives, he will continue the raids of the past eight years on states that legally operate medical marijuana clinics.

Obama will not allow anymore raids on those medical marijuana clinics. That's a good start for me.

All three candidates are entitled to change their mind at anytime once elected, but Obama for now is ahead of the curve.

Ahead of the curve?

Three of the alternate candidates (named above) would certainly overturn the war on drugs, the other (Constitution Party), I'm not so sure about, but choose one of those candidates instead. Obama will just give us more of the same old shit.

in this election, since we

in this election, since we really only do have 2 options that have a viable shot at getting elected, we only have 2 choices. all this talk about voting for a third party candidate is rubbish. yes we need to abolish the 2 party system IN BETWEEN ELECTIONS... but for now, with 2 options on the table... can we please stop talking about voting for someone besides obama? if any change at all is wanted, and if one has any intelligence whatsoever, they will vote for the candidate who at least has said that medical marijuana should not be in fear of DEA raids. that's a start and the only start we have. get off your high horse people. vote for change. vote for obama. and once he is elected, present him and the rest of america with a desire for more change, and make him change EVERYTHING. it's our only hope.


This engorgement of the War on Drugs is the primary reason I haven't supported Obama. It's also the best way to convince his supporters to give him a double-take - even non drug users know that the War on Drugs needs to be abolished, not expanded. Most Obama supporters think he's likely to decriminalize until I point them to his own issues page.

Obama may be judged "the lesser of two evils", but that doesn't mean you're off the hook for the evil he brings to office. As long as people keep voting for the two-party system, we'll have a two-party system.

Would you like to give up this right or that? Do you want to pay 34% of you wages to the Federal government, or 39%? Would you rather attack Pakistan or Bolivia? Would you rather die from starvation or exposure?

You took the words right out of my mouth! Vote Libertarian for REAL CHANGE!

Obama is just another white boss man....

Obama presidency must free the slaves! The real crime is on Wall Street. Lock these 'white' people up and leave African Americans who use drugs (non-violently) alone!

Obama is a politician

Obama is a politician. He has only voted the straight Democrat ticket in his short time in government. He will say whatever it takes to get elected. This is why he floats statements of support for various positions and settles on the one's that seem most likely to get him elected. There's only one difference we can discern. Obama has zero experience in running anything. So, only God knows what Obama really would do if elected. But, we can expect Democrats to blindly support Obama. No matter how destructive this might be for our nation. Our only hope is that McCain is elected. That he dies in office and Palin flips on cannabis and signs away Nixon's executive order and ends the war on drugs. Otherwise, we are left with Obama/Biden who is a major disaster waiting to happen. Or, McCain who wants to continue the disasters known as the war in Iraq and the war on drugs. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know. I just hate the idea of McCain thinking that because someone voted for him it means that they support his hardline ideas. What a sucky situation our two party system is shoving down our throats. We're being fed a line of SH*T. But, it's actually the EC who elects our presidents. So, the idea that we are a democracy is a total farce. Maybe this is why foreign countries hate us telling them how to run their elections?

You have no intelligence.

You have no intelligence. That has got to be the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Palin will legalize rape before marijuana. She is a crazy, radical conservative and so are you. There is no place for you in our country, and i blame you for all the trouble we are in as a country, because I'm sure you voted for Bush... twice. Please move.

I heard him say once

I heard him say once that blacks are unfairly targetted in the war on drugs (i don't remember his exact words), and that he thought that should change; that the war on drugs should be faught the same way in the suburbs as it is in the inner city. I hope he remembers that when he's in office. I hope the black community (and everyone else who's aware of this) reminds him. If he really starts on the way to treat suburban whites like inner city blacks, or at least if it's talked about enough on the media, policies might not actually change, but the lid will have been blown off on the tyranny of the drug war. Just imagine what would happen if the media talked about the real numbers of blacks imprisoned vs whites.

Obama's shifting positions on drug war is regrettable

When I first saw Obama speak on the issues concerning the drug war I felt inspired by his seemingly reformist views and donated to his campaign on more one occasion. Now after Scott has exposed Obama to be Clinton-like in his changing position, I really regret sending him money. As long as the two main parties view the drug war as a meccanism for scoring political points by out toughening the other, we will never get any meaningful reforms.

Now, I am voting Libertarian with the hope that Bob Barr will particpate in the debates. At least the media is clined to bring up the issue of the drug war when they interview him and he has all the right answers. If the debates are left exclusively to the Dems and Repubs, you won't hear a peep about the drug war. Obama support for the Bryne Grants is deplorable. I fear that if he's elected, he'd pander to law enforcement and continue increasing the drug war budgets. The positive aspect is that the people can hold him accountable for flip flopping and supporting these draconian grants and laws which exaserabate the incarciration rate he was critical of when he was campaigning for the Democratic primary.

McCain will turn drug policy reform into molasses

McCain only sees pot-smoking hippies when there are only cancer and MS patients struggling to survive. At least, Obama supports medical marijuana in states that vote for it.

I vote Libertarian in every election, but I am not giving McCain a chance to get into office. This issue transcends ideology.

Thank you. You may be the


Obama thinks there are too many people in jail

McCain doesn't. Pretty important difference there. Obama deserves much of the criticism he's getting here, but a quarter of a loaf is better than nothing.
The claim that Palin is more qualified than Obama, Biden, and McCain is would be amusing if the stakes weren't so high. Remember what Republican stalwart Peggy Noonan said in front of an open mike about her. Chuck Hagel, Republican Senator, Ex-Marine, said about her, she's so unqualified "what can you say?". It was a reckless choice by McCain and reinforces already existing fears that he would run a reckless presidency (singing "bomb, bomb Iran", his temper, his impulsiveness).

RealityCheck.org: Obama is our best shot for actual improvement.

Sure libertarians and greens would end the drug war altogether but what's their plan to get elected and make that change. Historically, these third parties get less than 0.5% of the vote in every national election. I'm going to vote for the person that has the most resources and most open to changing our out-of-control drug policies and it ain't Bob Barr and Ralph Nader and it's definitely not McCain anytime soon.

Watch this video to know what I'm talking about:


Oh stop it!

People like you (and the two commenters above your post) are the reason that alternate candidates get only a minimal percentage of the vote. You claim all along to support one of the "third party" platforms, but then you go vote for one of the twin evils (and believe me neither McCain nor Obama is the "lesser evil", they are equal in that regard). Stand up for your claimed principles, vote for the party that REALLY speaks to your conscience, for a change. Go check out the links posted in a reply above and do the RIGHT thing!

It's time to put drug policy reform above party politics

....."and believe me neither McCain nor Obama is the "lesser evil".."

I know that Obama supports ending the raids on medical marijuana clinics and McCain doesn't. How does it get clearer on that? My dad has health problems and to me his well-being is far more important than allegiance to any political party. I want this medical marijuana issue to be over and I want to see results. If I have to vote for a "twin evil," then so be it.

well said scott

Hitting the nail on the head as usual Scott.
-adam S

Obama sycophants

have roundly denounced me for pointing out these consistent pro-drug war positions of Barack Obama. It is more important, for the Jim Crow Democratic Party, to get a black face on the ballot than to get black Americans out of the drug gulags they call prisons.

My response is simple. Change must be more than skin deep.

I will continue to promote anti drug war alternatives to right-wing pandering Democrats and fascist Republicans.

Bob Barr - Libertarian

Cynthia McKinney - Green

Ralph Nader - Independent

These three Americans will end the authoritarian Jim Crow war on drugs.

Barack Obama has consistently fooled liberals but he is a right-wing pandering thug. Just listen to him with an open mind and you will see it. John McCain is an idiot.

Where is Al?

Al Giordano of Narco News has supported Barack Obama throughout the campaign because he is bruised by Democrats hating drug reformers who, in past elections, supported drug reform candidates like Ralph Nader rather than capitulate to the DNC thug and bully tactics. Al gave into the bullies in this election and now post anonymously most of the time because his hero, Obama, is proving to be even more right-wing than most Democrats.

I have this to say to Giordano and other former reformers who put their values aside in order to win acceptance by the Jim Crow status quo:



The only way

That Obama and the Jim Crow Democrats will ever see that people want real change is to show them the extent of support for that change. You do not demonstrate that demand for change by voting to candidates, like Obama/Biden, who represent the status quo. NO MATTER HOW MUCH DEMOCRATS AND AL GIORDANO LIE TO US AND TELL US OTHERWISE!!!!!!!!!

Vote your drug reform values. It is the only way to educate the single-minded Democrats and Republicans.


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