Does DC’s Attorney General Want to Legalize Drugs?

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It appears that a top elected official in Washington, D.C. might support legalizing cocaine and heroin in addition to marijuana, which is already legal in the nation’s capital.

In a Friday appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine seemed to agree with a caller who said that making drugs illegal violates liberty and causes public health and safety harms.

During a segment about the District of Columbia’s efforts to crack down on synthetic cannabinoids sold under brand names like Spice or K2, one caller brought up the overall debate about drug prohibition, saying that banning drugs is a “civil liberties issue, and when people want to consume substances that alter their state of consciousness they should be allowed to. Now, if you didn’t have such a crackdown on drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin, there wouldn’t even be a market for synthetic drugs.” (These remarks occur at about 12 minutes in to the segment linked above.)

Racine responds by saying:

“I respect the caller’s perspective and in many ways I agree with the caller’s central point. Namely, that law enforcement and overcriminalization of drug laws can cause more harm to society than benefit…. With respect to chemical drugs [like synthetic cannabinoids], the recipe is clear. We know what’s going to happen when people ingest it. It’s not just merely a personal use and two adults not harming anyone. Violence as to innocent people occurs… With respect to legalization of other substances, including marijuana, I think that the caller makes an excellent point.

After some discussion about D.C.’s marijuana laws, C-SPAN host Peter Slen follows up to directly ask, “Just to be real clear, do you think that the cocaines and the heroins, et cetera, all the other drugs that we’re pretty familiar with, should they be legalized as well, in the same manner [as marijuana]? Would it help law enforcement?”

Racine does not say “no.” Instead, he says:

“To be real clear I think that the 21st century policing is such that smart prosecution means less of an emphasis on criminalizing conduct, more of an emphasis on mental health and substance abuse. With respect to marijuana, you know, my position is very clear. I think it should be legal and I think that the District of Columbia, like the State of Colorado should be able to regulate it.”

Based on these remarks, it seems that Racine likely favors ending the prohibition of drugs other than marijuana, but felt a little uncomfortable about explicitly articulating that.

If Racine really does want to legalize and regulate drugs, he might want to consider reaching out to the folks at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of prosecutors, cops and judges who feel the same way after having served on the front lines of the failed drug war.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Racine sent the following statement to Marijuana.com: “The point of Attorney General Racine’s statement was to emphasize that any smart law-enforcement strategy for cocaine and heroin should focus on treatment and mental-health care for users. He does not support the legalization of dangerous and highly addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.”

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

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