President Obama said drug “legalization is not the answer” at a summit meeting of Western Hemisphere leaders in Colombia this weekend, the New York Times reports. The issue was placed on the agenda by Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. Santos suggested he had in mind some middle ground short of fully decriminalizing the drug trade that for years has undermined societies in his region.
“We have the obligation to see if we're doing the best that we can do, or are there other alternatives that can be much more efficient?” Santos said during a panel discussion with. Obama and President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil before the summit began. “One side can be all the consumers go to jail. On the other extreme is legalization. On the middle ground, we may have more practical policies.” Obama said, “I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.” He added, “I personally, and my administration's position, is that legalization is not the answer.” Drug operations could come to “dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint,” he said, and “could be just as corrupting if not more corrupting then the status quo.”