I don’t know much about Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, but as reported by Monique Garcia and Hal Dardick in the Chicago Tribune, here’s a sentiment that you won’t hear from too many politicians:
CHAMPAIGN — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday 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.
I think that’s a little more partisan than necessary — it’s not as if the Democrats tried to roll back any much of the war on drugs — but Preckwinkle sounds like she’s got the right idea:
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.
Downstate Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet 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.
That seems right. Usually when authorities talk about treating drug use as a health issue, they mean that instead of forcing drug users into a cage, they’re going to force them into drug treatment. But forcing people into drug treatment doesn’t work very well, and by using force they’re actually doing the opposite of what they’re saying: They’re turning a health issue into another way to punish people.
“Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first or the last, but he was certainly the most prominent at the very beginning,” Preckwinkle told the Tribune in a phone interview.
“Drug policy in this country has been in the wrong direction for 30 years,” she said. “I think that’s something they should acknowledge. If I had it to do over again, I certainly wouldn’t say anything quite so inflammatory. But my position basically remains the same.”
I’ve heard that a lot of people in local governments have expressed that sentiment in private but are afraid to say anything in public. It’s good to hear a sittling politician say it out loud.