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April 16th, 2009
11:02 AM ET

Commentary: Public is in no mood to legalize marijuana

By Asa Hutchinson
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Asa Hutchinson is former Director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and served as the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "Asa Hutchinson is former Director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration."]
When it comes to the debate on legalization of marijuana, we can all have confidence in the greatness of our democracy. Ultimately the voters decide the direction of our country. Thus far there is no evidence that the public is in any mood to legalize marijuana or other currently illegal drugs.

In Arkansas, a few years back, a statewide ballot initiative could not even get on the ballot because the proponents could not garner enough signatures. Nationwide, recent ballot initiatives have focused on medical marijuana or enforcement policy.

The advocates of legalization are trying to chip away on the fringes of the legalization debate but they know there is not a sufficient popular movement for legalization. Parents are in no mood to make another harmful drug more accessible and socially acceptable for the youth.

The current argument is that legalization is the right way to solve the cartel violence in Mexico. I disagree.

If you accept that argument then we should legalize cocaine to reduce the cartel violence in Colombia. That is not the right logic and the violence will continue. The only thing legalization will accomplish is to increase the use of harmful drugs in the United States. The cartels will just move to another illegal drug to make their cash and if there is not a current market for the drug, then they will work to create that market.

On the show today, Neil Franklin did a great job and is a terrific advocate for his sincerely held views. I hope we can all keep this debate at the level the American people expect and deserve.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Asa Hutchinson.

Filed under: Controversy • Drugs
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. jerry

    If its ok to get drunk beyond the point of walking,
    for no reason, in public, then why cant someone sick smoke medical marijuana? Taxed and regulated, Pain-free and happy.. Wheres the issue.

    Being unable to accept the evidence and common sense just makes you look stubborn and ignorant. There is no logical, fact-based argument for Prohibition of marijuana, cannabis or industrial hemp, especially considering that the plant isn’t toxic, addictive, and has far fewer ill effects than aspirin or coffee.

    May 13, 2009 at 6:54 pm |
  2. Paul B.

    He joins the ranks of the deceivers, the liars. "Legalization" means "Regulation and control", and would make it harder for kids to get marijuana, not easier. Similar to alchohol or tobacco, you'd have to show an ID to purchase the product. Pay sales taxes. Support a legitimate industry that would hire employees, who pay income taxes. It would result in fewer arrests and incarcerations for behavior that should not be punishable by imprisonment (i.e. personal beliefs). It would dry up the market for the cartels, as millions of Americans go to the smoke shops or the package (liquor) stores, or wherever locations are provided by the rules and regulations we decide on. Smuggling marijuana would still be illegal, since import and tax laws were violated. Border protection would still be crucial. Drug dogs would still have a job. Millions of Americans would stop using "moonshine marijuana", in favor of legal business processes almost all of us prefer.
    The only reason more American people don't support regulation and control is because you are misinforming them, lying to them, scaring them about something they don't need to fear, but something they need to regulate and control.

    April 17, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  3. Sensible

    If Mr. Asa Hutchinson didn't prove he was a racist, people hating facist while in office he proves it now.
    Why are these foolish prohobitionists not able to change the tired arguments they spew?
    Because all of the PROHO disinformation is lies, lies, lies......
    If we are not careful we will have to watch Nancy Regan videos until our eyes bleed......... Just say NO!
    No more lies.
    No more "war on dugs/Americans"
    No more swat raids for a little weed.
    No more DEA.
    NO more Asa Hutchingson.
    No more prohibitionist thug facists.

    April 17, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  4. Jill

    Has anyone in government inquired as to why drugs are popular? There is only rehab as a choice which tries to get a person off drugs, but rehab only does so much. Our government and the anti-legalization crowd do not do rehab too well. It is expensive. Legalization, taxation, with a hefty portion, if not all going for rehab and education with the addtion of organic whole-food diets (which means no currently legal poisons added to empty calories) would be a giant step forward. BUT- legal poisons and illegal ones reap hefty profits and those lobbies spew disinformation which have become entrenched in public beliefs. Imagine drugs being used moderately if at all and a happy, mentally and physically healthy citizenry.

    April 17, 2009 at 9:56 am |
  5. Deborah AKA The Vocal Citizen

    How does this ex-DEA head know what the public wants? Was there a national vote and I missed it?!
    Or could it be this guy just wants to perpetuate the propaganda that has lingered for 72 years?

    The fact is, the demand for marijuana is abundant – a concept the drug cartels know and count on for more than 50% of their income.
    The customer base is there. The crops are present in the U.S. even while in hiding.

    Legalization will legitimize the multi-billion dollar marijuana market and allow our government to regulate and tax it.

    If we do as this guy suggests and leave cannabis prohibition in place, the drug cartels will reap the financial benefits and grow stronger and stronger and stronger..... selling unregulated marijuana (and their other, more fatal products) to YOUR children.

    April 17, 2009 at 8:27 am |
  6. Mike

    This guy is obviously so out of touch with the people.. the war on drugs is a failure.. what good is it doing putting people in jail for smoking weed? Making it illegal has proven many times over it doesn't stop people from getting it or using it. Making it illegal only benefits the black market.. make it legal and reasonably tax it. If the government was so concerned about our health, tobacco and all these prescription drugs with serious side effects would never have been approved.. there is so much more to say but I think most everyohne here is on the same page and knows what's going on.

    April 17, 2009 at 8:09 am |
  7. D

    Marijuana is nowhere near as damaging as Alcohol or Prescriptions drugs. Legalize It!

    April 17, 2009 at 6:51 am |
  8. Mary

    One more thing! Hutchinson is the former ( thank goodness) head of drug enforcement! He is highly uneducated on the subject of cannabis and seems to be only fighting to make sure his departments don't lose thier jobs once the cannabis is finally legalized! If they say NO WAY, then they need educated to be retaught about the plant and its MANY wonderful uses, besides smoking it! They are just lying about everything! See what $$$ does to people? It strips the US American people out of thier rights as a citizen. Where is our freedom here? We, the American people are educated and wise enough to make thier OWN decisions. Why is it that our country treats us like thier children and punishes us by stripping us from our constitutional rights to the freedoms that were fought for by our forefathers?? Come on people! Fight for your freedom!

    April 17, 2009 at 6:35 am |
  9. Linda

    The government must have their head in a hole in the sand! And of course DEA would want to keep it illegal so they have a job. SHEEESH!

    Just legalize it so we and think of something else a while!

    April 17, 2009 at 6:15 am |
  10. Mary

    As once again I see, they report untruths! Our government is repetedly telling lies to the American People! Most of the people do need reeducated on the subject of cannabis because the lies that have been told to them! Once educated, they will be able to see that the plant known as cannabis, is one of the most useful and NON TOXIC plants on earth! We have all been decieved! LEGALIZE it already!

    Rev. Ray Green ...this is going out to you. There is an outrage being heard in our areas about this very subject! I am going to look at the site that you have listed on here, and will share it with everyone! You, have my full support! If I can help by holding a rally right here in the Pittsburgh area, I do think that we would find a huge amount of support that would be needed to finally WIN THE BATTLE!

    April 17, 2009 at 6:11 am |
  11. mike slc

    Just to add another thought or two.
    Of coarse Mr. Hutchinson is against the legalization of ANY drug.
    I am sure Mr. Hutchinson made/makes a six figure income, legalize drugs and what will he do to make that kind of money?
    He will tell us its not about the money, I believe it is, just like the cartels and the street corner dealers it's all about the money if the money was not there they would do something different.
    I wonder if Mr Hutchinson drinks alcohol? maybe a glass of wine with dinner, a few drinks with friends over a game of cards? I hope gambling is legal in the state he lives in.
    I also wonder if when his children became of legal age (21) he bought them a drink and had one with them himself?

    April 16, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  12. Max

    This guy is so far out of touch with reality. Its amazing!

    April 16, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  13. jack

    We are already a society of comfortably numb addicts. Every other TV commercial pushes a new and improved medication to help you cope. And the point of this article is...? Look, America is in dire need of a balanced economy (do today's households/municipalities know what a budget is?) , an infrastructure upgrade, better education, healthcare, family and parenting values etc. Please get off this subject, people, and work toward a sustainable existence!

    April 16, 2009 at 11:03 pm |
  14. mike slc

    How does this guy think legalization makes it more accessible to the young? So just because its legal, everyone in America is going to use it?
    just like they do alcohol and tobacco because it is legal.
    We all make the choice to smoke and drink, or not to.
    But what I am hearing is if legal there is no choice, Everyone will be a drug addicts/abusers and our country will fall apart.
    We as adults are not smart enough to make our own decisions, we need the much wiser,and more intelligent officials of or nation to tell us what is good for us and what we can and can't do do in the privacy of our own homes! . By God this is America what makes us think that we can think for ourselves. WE MUST DO AS WE ARE TOLD!!!.
    The Government has been brainwashing us about marijuana for how many decades now.
    We will eat newborns rape and kill our parents jump off tall buildings thinking we can fly! BY GOD IT WILL MAKE THE HUMAN RACE CRAZY AND OUT OF CONTROL! Oh dear the sky is falling.
    Tobacco is the gateway drug, it is the first thing the youth try's and we move up from there. make it illegal! Oh I forgot you can't do that The tobacco company's are more powerful than the American Government. AND WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. ARE NOT ALLOWED TO MAKE OUR OWN CHOICE.

    April 16, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  15. Gail McLean

    Here's a guy that thinks it's okay that we build 5 times as many jails as we do schools in this country. He's made his bread and butter helping the government wage war on it's citizens. Of course he won't support cutting off the hand that fed him. We need to continue to show him and people like him that there is indeed a majority of people that see through the scam cannabis prohibition is.

    April 16, 2009 at 9:53 pm |
  16. ontarion

    I think opinions count for nothing towards political progress. If there is a strong majority of voters in the united states who support legalization, then they should get together and sign a petition. The fact that this has yet to happen is proof that though a majority of people may support legalization, its just not a high priority issue for enough of them to initiate a change in legislation.

    April 16, 2009 at 9:32 pm |
  17. spaghetti SPAGHETTI

    May 10, 2009=30 yrs of Fed hypocrisy!
    May 10, 1979 FDA starts Sypathetic Drug program to provide 9 patients marijuana from a Mississippi plantation after losing Supreme Court case.

    Stop the hypocrisy, start the healing.

    April 16, 2009 at 8:45 pm |
  18. RevRayGreen


    Iowans a new sun has dawned over a new Iowa, thank you to all who supported IOWA-SF293

    April 16, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  19. tom

    Wow, yet another DEA agent with a bad opinion of pot. Where is your show of support against it. I don't see scores of people in the News, News Papers or the web showing such support at ALL. The only support I see for not wanting to discuss it, is primarily from law enforcement and congress.

    April 16, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  20. JD

    You will notice that the Main people who want the drugs to stay illegal are the Drug Cartels and DEA, I think it's the only thing they agree on, and for the same reason. It's how they get paid! of course they want it to stay illegal.
    It's not up to the DEA (or at least it shouldn't be) to decide if a substance should be available to to adult public.
    seems like a conflict of interest to me! Looks like they are all just lining their pockets at our expense!!

    April 16, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  21. Tom

    Find out why more and more cops, judges, and prosecutors who have fought on the front lines of the "war on drugs" are standing up and saying we need to legalize and regulate all drugs to solve our economic, crime, and public health problems:

    April 16, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  22. DJ

    Mr. Hutchinson,

    If you sincerely believe that there is evidence that the American public is in the mood to legalize marijuana, then either you are living in a bubble or you are being disingenuous.

    From the violence in Mexico, to the DEA raids of state legal dispensaries in California, to President Obama's public forum questions, to the increasing media attention, and to the growing number of states that have or will soon legalize medical marijuana along with the beginnings of talk about legalization in California and Massachusetts. People are talking about it. The facts about marijuana are coming out. People are seeing the Prohibition is the root cause of the problems in the War on Drugs, not the drugs themselves. And Americans are getting tired of incarcerating over 800,000 of their fellow citizens over a plant that is far less harmful than caffeine.

    You, and those like you, are dinosaurs. Being unable to accept the evidence and common sense just makes you look stubborn and ignorant. There is no logical, fact-based argument for Prohibition of marijuana, cannabis or industrial hemp, especially considering that the plant isn't toxic, addictive, and has far fewer ill effects than aspirin or coffee.

    April 16, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  23. Andrew Cameron

    From his very first sentence comes corruption! This is a democracy? We're functioning as our founders intended? Ha!

    What about life, liberty, pursuit of happiness? What about our ability to worship God any way we want? Marijuana, mushrooms, peyote, and more (probably) have been used for all those reasons for thousands upon thousands of years! 1 Timothy 4:1-6 is being fulfilled.

    He continues to confuse many issues in to one issue! Just because many of us want ALL drugs legalized, it's so they can be regulated and kept out of the hands of black market gangs, kids, and NOT ADVERTISED! (And myriad other reasons. We say "legalize drugs" not "do drugs!"

    Keep marijuana illegal and that means adults who deal will continue to use kids as proxies to avoid harsh sentences. Read the short essay below:

    These people are just fulfilling Biblical prophecy but they don't realize it. Who do you think Jesus is going to side with, the people who were locked up over a joint (or any amount of marijuana)? Or the people who created draconian laws to benefit for-profit prisons? Especially given the fact that study after study has shown marijuana to be effective for many uses, but these studies have been buried by lies and ignorance.

    Read and participate:

    April 16, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  24. Chris Battle

    Just curious, but if you legalize marijuana, how would that stop the cartels? They're still running cocaine, heroin, etc. I don't see how legalizing pot has much to do with stopping nacrotrafficking violence.

    April 16, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  25. J

    This guy must have missed out on the White House town meeting where every question on legalization was in favor of it.

    April 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  26. Gregory R. Di Giulio

    The U.S.A. Government admits that there so called war on drugs is a failure of resources. Legalizing and taxing, like alcohol is a thumbs up for income and a logical resolution to the abuse of power on all sides of the controversy of the American citizens. I am amember of Drug With over 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S.A. you are damned if you do and damned if you don't by all sides. Free up our jails police and use proceeds of tax income for related expenses. Stop the cartels and dealers or corrupt governments from running our lives illegaly. Hemp has many beneficial uses Thanks!

    April 16, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  27. Chris Robinson

    Has this guy bumped his head?
    Nearly a full 80% of the population would like to see marijuana made legal. In regards to other drugs, I have no opinion about at this time.

    If no serious efforts have been made to legalize marijuana how do you justify the attempts of NORML, MPP and other marijuana activists to have our present government listen to us and follow through withthe desires of the nation? Why are there 13 states that have made medical marijuana legal for medically needy persons?
    We are willing to pay taxes on it! These taxes could very well bring in $8-$10 Billion a year in tax revenue, what is the problem with that?
    Hemp and marijuana have many uses beyond that of recreational and medical use. Fuel, Food, and textile industries would benefit from these being legal!

    Think Green! Money, medicine, fuel, and food!

    April 16, 2009 at 11:14 am |