Chicago’s Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said former President Ronald Reagan deserves “a special place in hell” for his role in the war on drugs, but later she regretted what she called her “inflammatory” remark, the Chicago Tribune reports. The comment from Preckwinkle came at a conference led by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, now at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Preckwinkle was defending the recent move by the city of Chicago to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by allowing police to write tickets, saying out-of-whack drug laws unfairly lead to more minorities behind bars.
Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose questioned whether such an approach includes drug treatment for those who are ticketed. Preckwinkle said no, arguing that drug treatment should be part of the health care system, not criminal justice. She said Reagan deserves a “special place in hell” for his involvement in “making drug use political.” Hours later, Preckwinkle issued a statement saying she regretted the Reagan comment. The Democrat said she was trying to make the point that substance abuse should be treated as a health crisis, not a criminal problem. While President Richard Nixon is generally credited with starting the war on drugs, critics contend Reagan ramped up the issue for political purposes during the 1980s.