Drug reform advocates have a new and unlikely partner in their corner.
On Tuesday, Ohio Republican Rob Portman is set to call for a reevaluation of the “war on drugs” and the hyper-incarceration it has caused. But Portman, who many speculate will be a presidential candidate in 2016, will also warn that President Obama’s plan to use executive power to make reforms to drug sentencing could prevent lasting changes from taking place.
“President Obama recently announced that he would grant clemency to hundreds of non-violent drug offenders,” Portman is set to say Tuesday in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “That may be within his power, but it’s like placing a Band-Aid on a deep wound. It may cover up the problem of prison overcrowding today, but it doesn’t address the deeper problem that drives recidivism.”
According to Buzzfeed:
Portman’s speech lays out a plan to fight poverty using what he calls “constructive conservatism.” In the speech, the Republican senator describes that as a “bottom up” approach that lets communities develop plans to fight poverty, prove their results and then spread those ideas across the country with the help of federal grants and other assistance.
In the AEI speech, Portman will become one of the most prominent elected Republicans to criticize the “war on drugs,” a metaphor dating back to the Nixon Administration, and a phrase the Obama Administration refuses to use. Portman said the effort has spent a lot of money but done little to solve the problems of drugs and poverty.
In the speech, Portman had this to say about the war on drugs:
We know, of course, that drug abuse and drug addiction bedevil communities rich and poor, and a big house and a nice car does not make one immune to drug abuse.
But I can tell you that drug abuse is particularly devastating to communities that are already vulnerable, where unemployment rates are high, where people don’t have the skills or the training they need to get a good job, whether it’s the poor Appalachian counties in southern Ohio that have been devastated by the prescription-drug epidemic, or the poor neighborhoods in our inner cities that are now reeling from the surge in heroin, in overdoses, and in violence – the gangs and the crime that build up around the drug trade.
You cannot talk about poverty without talking about addiction, and addiction is something that a war on drugs is never going to solve.
To read the rest of Portman’s prepared speech, click here.