American Morning

Tune in at 6am Eastern for all the news you need to start your day.
April 16th, 2009
10:30 AM ET

Napolitano says drug legalization not the answer

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks to CNN's Kiran Chetry about drug violence in Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks to CNN's Kiran Chetry about drug violence in Mexico.

President Obama makes his first trip to Mexico today as drug violence continues to plague the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will be with the president on his visit. She joined Kiran Chetry on CNN’s American Morning Thursday.

Kiran Chetry: We heard from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said America's insatiable demand for drugs is in part fueling the drug wars. Do you think we're partly to blame for the violence we've been seeing along the border?

Janet Napolitano: Well, there certainly is a relationship. You can't deny it. These are huge drug cartels that have developed over time. They're very violent. Witness the fact that there were over 6,000 homicides in northern Mexico last year including 550 that were assassinations of law enforcement or public officials in Mexico. What we're working to do, is to work to stop the flow of guns and cash in to Mexico that are helping fuel these cartels. But also, we're working at the border to make sure that the spillover violence doesn't occur in our own cities and communities.

Chetry: We’ve been having this debate all week on our special report, Drug Nation. One of the things that keeps coming up is legalization. Some say we would pull the rug from right under the cartels if we legalize, let's say, marijuana. Is that something that the administration is considering as realistic?

Napolitano: No. It is not. This is, to me, a law enforcement issue. It is preventing illegal narcotics and illegal immigrants from coming into our country on the northbound side. It's preventing illegal guns and cash from going south in to Mexico and working with the government of Mexico to increase their own law enforcement capacity.

Chetry: As governor of Arizona you supported sending National Guard trips to the border. It's still under review now. Why haven't we seen that done yet?

Napolitano: Well, first of all, it is under review. One of the things that we've asked the governor of Texas in particular for and he just got back to us, is what would the National Guard do? What would their mission be? Because you don't just throw National Guard at the border. We don't have a military border per se. But we use National Guard and targeted mission-specific ways. When I was governor of Arizona, I called the National Guard down to the border to help back-up border patrol because we were having such a high influx of illegal immigration.

But overall what you need at the border is civilian law enforcement. That means on our side, immigration, customs enforcement, and state and local tribal law enforcement. The same on the Mexican side. You need technology. You need things like sensors and radar. And you need the equipment that goes along with that. You have a system. And then you have a process whereby in the United States, we make sure we're enforcing our immigration laws against the employers who consistently go in to that illegal labor market in order to exploit it.

Chetry: You're a proponent of e-verify where you can instantaneously type in a social security number and find out if that person is legal. Are we going to see that expanded?

Napolitano: I hope so. I believe e-verify needs to be an integral part of our immigration enforcement moving forward. I used it extensively as the governor of Arizona. As an employer, we used it to verify legal residents of potential employees of the state. We required our contractors to do the same thing. So I know how the system works. It's a very practical, easy to accomplish adjunct to enforcement of our immigration laws. That is, giving employers a fairly easy and routine way to verify legal residents.

Chetry: You’ve been getting a lot of pushback over this leaked domestic intelligence report, warning of right-wing extremists groups. Conservative and veterans groups are saying it unfairly targeted returning military veterans and gun rights advocates without actually citing specific threats. How do you respond?

Napolitano: This is an assessment, not an accusation, as the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization released yesterday. But I know that some veterans groups were offended by the fact that veterans were mentioned in this assessment. So I apologize for that offense. It was certainly not intended. I’ll be meeting with the leaders of some of those groups next week.

Filed under: Drugs • Mexico
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Todd

    If she does not think it's time then she needs to shut down the 13 states allowing medical marijuana programs. The latest polls in California shows us that the public opinion will go up in such states.Then she has to send at least 8 million confessed pot smokers who have smoked pot today alone either in jail or rehab. Then she has to change the minds of at least 23 million people using the same old logic and ideals from the exposed "Reffer Madness' era. Based on the latest information I've seen so far on Marijuana, has been to the contrary. This will certainly cost us more time, death, money and manpower in the end as well as divide our culture.

    April 18, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  2. Deborah AKA The Vocal Citizen

    " Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded. " - Abraham Lincoln (Obama's hero)

    Marijuana is not fatal, has been used for thousands of years (during WWII our government initiated the "Hemp for Victory" campaign despite prohibition), and brings much-needed relief to our sick and dying.

    Alcohol prohibition created a violent criminal market to satisfy the public's demand and was – rightfully – overturned in the 1930s. Now, our national past times are sponsored by alcohol. Cindy McCain has made MILLIONS off of the sale of alcohol, knowing federal regulation of the industry keeps it safely manufactured and under the We Card Program.

    Legalize it or admit defeat to the cartels!
    By the way, it is no longer political suicide to support sensible drug policy but it could cost some politicians their re-election if they continue to ignore the 30,000,000 Americans who are calling for change.

    April 17, 2009 at 8:47 am |
  3. Joe

    This woman is out of touch with reality, how did she ever get the appointed to this post?. (a yes woman?) Marijuana legalization is the answer to the drug problem, the people who use it will do so regardless....

    April 17, 2009 at 8:05 am |
  4. Mary

    Look people, we neeed a serious change! I was in TOTAL shock when this UNEDUCATED person from AZ actually got appointed into office! I am not the only one as there are TONS of people in the southwest that wanted her OUT of the office she was holding at the time she was ...promoted. Her ideas are NOT in the best interest of AMERICA, nor its people! She seemed to be quite concerned about HER rights for the gay community and did nothing much about the immagration problem which existed there and still does today! I am one person who holds NO respect her abilities to hold the position in whih she does! I tend to think that MOST Americans feel this way! I think she was appointed to this position so she can be a part of the legalization of illegal immagrants into this country! This is about what is going to happen here, isn't it? Over 35 million more people will be given citizenship in our country, at he people's expense!

    Kent Keith ... Since when did it become a crime to look, you asked? This is the only answer that makes any sence to me ... It may now be a crime to look since our gov. decided to strip the US American people out of thier constitutional and religious rights, thereby treating our Constitution as though it was just another "piece of paper". Our rights are being stripped every day that passes, and if "WE THE PEOPLE" do nothing about it to stop this, we will end up being like Cuba.

    April 17, 2009 at 7:41 am |
  5. Steveofpanama

    lol... im telling u the drug war sign's to many paycheck's in washington... of course the administration doesnt want to legalize... think of all the lobbiest ... the pharmacuitical companys... district attorney's... criminal courts lawyers...

    legalize and they and washington loses pocket money ....

    Lets keep it in the dark to add to the dealer's pocket's and see overdoses from people attempting to hide in this administration i see NO change... not even a pennys worth..

    April 17, 2009 at 4:37 am |
  6. mike slc

    What would happen to Mexico in Mexico.
    If drugs where legal in America?
    Would the violence stop? or slow down? could they export it legally and help their economy, could farmers grow it and create new and legal jobs in their country, Would this not help their economy as well as Americas?
    Instead of giving them billions of dollars to fight a war no one will ever win maybe we could give them money to help their economy grow develop and become a better place for their citizens, and great neighbors for us.
    If it helped create jobs and a better place for them to live we wouldn't need to build a wall or a fence we could work together to keep things under control on the border. We will never stop the use or the desire for drugs in America, and as long as they are illegal we will always have a huge problem on our southern border. Lets stop the war and help our friends to the south of us, Isn't that what good neighbors do, is help each other out?
    When is the last time you heard of a wall or fence being built on the Canadian border? or the war with Canada?
    How many Canadians do we hear of crossing the border illegally every day? How many die every year trying to get to America.?
    They must want to stay up north for the great weather!!! I hear the gulf of Canada is a great vacation destination any time of year!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:25 am |
  7. rob

    she just wants everyone in jail! she wants more jails to put all us pot smokers in! take me from my wife and kids and put me in jail, i smoke pot!

    April 16, 2009 at 11:41 pm |
  8. Gail McLean


    April 16, 2009 at 9:57 pm |
  9. Simon

    Janet Napolitano has basically been a proponent of building new prisons in AZ and sees no problem with simply locking people away vs dealing with the actual problem.

    The increase in AZ specifically of incarceration vs public health focus has really caused problems. We now have the same focus being used for the entire nation as a whole. I fail to see in what homeland security is actually proposing being a significant difference from previous efforts. In El Paso they got 10 dog teams trained to sniff out drugs/money/weapons to assist in the flow going South. I'm still very confused on how that is a significant impact. Nor were plans announced to create a new system to bottleneck the flow south as seen on the other side of the border.

    Also, for those decrying a lack of Democracy, keep in mind you dont live in one. This is a representative Republic. You are not asked to vote on issues outside of your own state. Simply to appoint someone to do it for you.

    Long term impact has been trillions of dollars spent and a nearly zero long term reduction of this problem. Now we have the lunacy to decide to void the provisions in the Posse Comitatus Act simply because it seems like the thing to do. Last I checked there is no actual violent over pour into the US. Simply a trickle that cant be stopped. If the current agencies actually spent their time doing what they've got on their charters, vs spending a large chunk of their budgets on meetings/studies/administrators, we'd not have this being proposed. They'd simply be shown as needing more people to do what they cant handle.

    I've lived on the border for more than 3 decades. There are little or no barriers to prevent people etc from crossing over. The number of people streaming across the border on any given day is more than the various agencies tasked with protecting our borders could ever possibly handle. No one listened all these years about there being a problem. All it seemed to take to point out how porous it was is to have some high profile murders occur inside the US during a political hailstorm.

    I think we've spent enough money on the prohibition aproach to realize its not going to work without turning the US into a complete police state. I dont think thats what anyone outside of the Prison Unions wants to see happen though. Totalitarian rule never has seemed to work out too well on a large scale.

    April 16, 2009 at 6:46 pm |
  10. Ken Ludwig

    You have a very interesting policy of posting (or not) commentary. As a bastion of free speech, you know that First Amendment thing you guys use refer to when it serves your purpose, CNN censors comments on their own website. Too bad you could not censor your reporter (term used loosely) covering the Tea Parties yesterday; that 2 year-old kid was definitely subversive.

    April 16, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  11. Serenden J Whitaker

    marijuana and the drug policy today, Barak Obama said him self that it is a health issue and not a law issue, so in a sense Janet is contradicting the president in calling the drug problem a law enforcement issue. this subject is something that... shouldn't just be discussed on news stations, although that's how you get your voice to the public, but the public is trying to instill common sense in the govt. and stop the old thought process and mind set that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and that the U.S. should consider legalizing it. but one thing i want to point out, no one( including:officials, commentators, and well the whole opposition) can bring a solid concrete argument on why marijuana should stay illegal other than "if drugs were legal more people would use them" and that is not true, as a matter a fact more people started using marijuana when it was made illegal. Americans who use marijuana bring points and arguments that almost shut up the opposition and yet no one will even consider our position...

    what kind of govt. are we living in? The govt. calls itself a democracy for the people and by the people, yet the people speak out on why marijuana should be legalized and doctors as well as scientists, police, judges, teachers, govt. officials whom support legalization aren't listened too.

    its like the govt. has selective hearing, and only listen on subjects it wants to discuss, but when the PEOPLE of the nation bring up subjects that are of interest to them, they are ignored and quieted. our founding fathers would be disappointed in the way our govt. is run today because this govt. is supposed to listen to the people, and its not doing so. not only that but our founding fathers grew and used cannabis(marijuana) for a multitude of purposes. Benjamen Franklin made America's first paper mill and it produced strictly hemp paper, the deceleration of Independence was written on hemp paper, Gorge Washington himself said, "Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed, and sow it everywhere." and still this country is contradicting his words by making it illegal, and for what... MONEY, and competition.

    other govt. made paper mills didn't want the competition of hemp paper which was more durable and could produce more paper per square acre than trees, and once ordinary people discover this and started making their own business then the govt. saw it as a threat to their money and deemed cannabis illegal and created outrageous propaganda movies such as "marijuana madness" to make the plant seem evil and vial. this is funny because in the 1930's movies like "hemp for victory" were made to encourage farmers to grow cannabis.

    its like this nation is just trying to contradict itself and only hear what it wants too. and as long as the govt. is making money they wouldn't see a reason to legalize something they would have a little competition in.

    The American govt. believes in a free market and capitalism, until competition threatens its own revenue from a product that the govt. cannot closely regulate. i hate to bash my own nation because i love this country, but when this country turns into one big hypocrate, i cannot any longer support its ideals. when a country will keep legal substances that are known to kill 1000's of people each year because it makes money off of it, and keep illegal a substance that has almost no deaths since the first time it was used, i find that America isn't keeping the safety of its people as a priority and this just isn't right.

    April 16, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
  12. Sharon

    My God–Janet Napolitano (Head of Homeland Security) speaks out against veterans–then apologizes–gets on CNN AMERICAN MORNING today (April 16th) was asked:

    "Do you think we’re partly to blame for the violence we’ve been seeing along the border?"

    Janet Napolitano answered:
    "Well, there certainly is a relationship. You can’t deny it.


    Obama apologizes at the G-20 for every act America has done. In all the statements made by Obama at the G-20, there wasn't one thing America has done right. If so, why didn't we hear any of it!


    Americans and the news media talk about "gay marriages" "real or unreal."

    Women's rights to have abortion (should or should not be) allowed?

    Let the citizens of America take a different approach–or seek a new change–Suppose every American was on the "TITANIC" and the ship was sinking–would we be saying–only if you believe this way or that way–you can be rescued!

    We (the American people) are on a sinking ship! Unemployment rate breaking new records everyday–people losing their homes-and our take is–A–WILL I BE ABLE TO GET AN ABORTION-WHAT STATE WILL NEXT LEGALIZE SAME SEX MARRIAGE!

    America is in trouble! Abortions (its all about me & my life)
    Same Sex Marriage–(its all about me & my life)

    We ALL need to recognize the hour! Our President clearly doesn't think very much about our Nation! The Homeland Security leader is afraid of "TEA PARTIES"! Right now!

    Every American get on the phones–get on the internet–get off our rear-ends before THIS WHOLE WORLD HAS WE KNOW IT ENDS!

    April 16, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  13. kent keith

    Kiran thank you for posting my thoughts I know my spelling needs work but thanks now for the jist of it follow the money !!!!!!!!! when you follow the money you will see why we don't leagleize to many pepole make money from the status quoe (rember it's hard for someone to understand something when their paycheck is tied to them not understanding it) the only grouth industry left in america are prisons time to set the record strait .as long as law enforcement has a say . i was talking to a cop the other day and told them to check out L.E.A.P she said just what i need is to be taged by the feds for looking up a web sight . when did it become a crime to inform ourselves and to look to other opinions besides what we have been force fed

    April 16, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  14. marilyn

    This woman is just another nut in the mixed bag we already have in DC. She has no idea what she's doing and will surely screw things up more than they already are. She's a spinner... not so much on the ball. She doesn't have an independent thought in her head worth teh time she spent thinking it up. We are in deep do do.

    April 16, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  15. Rogan DFW

    Taking the rights of law-abiding gun-owners away from them (and I include the stealth banning of weapons one by one, so beloved of the anti-gun lobby) is not going to make the least difference to the Mexican crime lords. Anything they are getting from the USA is the result of EXISTING laws that are being ignored – why would new laws have any more attention paid to them than before? The only people affected would be those who already obey the laws of the land.

    And if anyone is dumb enough to think that even an absolute ban on weapons in the USA would have the least effect on the weaponry south of the border, they haven't a clue about the effects of supply and demand, and the fact that there are markets that would like nothing better than to get their product into the hands of the drug suppliers. There wouldn't be a blip in the supply graphs of the criminal's accountants.

    Obama, for once at least, has got it right when he talks of going after the money. That's what they're in business for – take it away and they can't fund the violence, corruption and everything else they do. It would no longer be a get rich quick route for the gangs. And the money seized could go straight back into the fight to knock the criminal organizations down to a manageable size.

    April 16, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  16. Andrew Cameron

    "This is, to me, a law enforcement issue. "
    This is what another guy on your show said as well. Do you know what this really means? What they are saying is we should be putting millions of more citizens in prisons!

    We should be spending our tax dollars and their time, running them through the overburdened court system, putting money in the pockets of all sorts of lawyers, and turning them over to the for-profit prison system, so the rest of us can pay for them to stay in a tiny cage!

    "Do you use marijuana? Then you belong in prison, not continuing to benefit society, but become a burden to it!"

    Why doesn't Barack turn himself in and go sit in a cage? Because he supposedly no longer takes some puffs? Did it rot his brain so he's a danger to society? Sure seems like most people don't think so!

    God is making many of us work hard to fight these evil lies and rescue those in prison who do not belong there. If we can't free them, then God will!

    Theses people are not enforcing God's laws, they are enforcing human laws that are an aversion and affront to God! Thus they will find themselves on the wrong side of history when the time comes for the wheat/chaff separation!

    Many of these people treat Jesus the same way the leaders of his day treated Moses! They idolize him from afar, but would completely reject him if they met him in person, not recognizing him one bit, busy thumping their own chests over how righteous they are compared to others.

    Read more:

    April 16, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  17. DJ

    With all due respect, Mr. Malone, legalizing drugs will, at least, make a huge impact on the income of drug cartels, and drug gangs in our own country. Prohibition creates black markets. When alcohol prohibition ended it was a striking blow against the mobs and moonshiners. Alcohol is a drug, no different than marijuana, cocaine or caffeine. People will continue to use, abuse and seek out these substances. If our government prohibits them, then the market goes underground. Since a supplier cannot call police or sue if there's a dispute they resort to violence. Gangs form, turf gets staked out, wars ensue. Law enforcement continues to get more militant, our rights are eroded, our security compromised. And billions of our tax dollars gets spent on this vicious circle.

    End prohibition and you remove their source of income, and they then need to compete with legitimate companies who can supply the demand with legal, safe and less expensive products. No more violence, no more incarcerating our fellow citizens for simply being in possession, and law enforcement can now focus on real crime. There is no logical and evidence-based argument for prohibition.

    April 16, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  18. Gary Malone

    Legalization of drugs is not equal to putting drug cartels out of business.

    April 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  19. Joan Dawdy

    This woman needs to be fired immediately. It is despicable what she said. We do not need people like this in our government.

    April 16, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  20. Andy Platacis

    Janet needs to resign immediatly. Insulting veterans with slurs is not acceptable nor are any of her far left view points.

    April 16, 2009 at 11:56 am |