Ben Carson has done it again. The Republican presidential candidate who has made a habit of making inflammatory remarks during recent interviews told Glenn Beck this week that he wants to “intensify” the so-called War on Drugs. The exchange came during a series of rapid-fire questions hosted by the Blaze.
When Beck asked Carson if he wanted to continue the War on Drugs, Carson responded, “Absolutely.” A slightly confused Beck clarified “You do?” And Carson replied confidently, “I would intensify it.”
The War on Drugs, which began under former President Richard Nixon in 1971, is widely considered a failure. It costs the U.S. about $51 billion per year, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York City-based group that advocates to reform drug policy in the U.S. and other countries. While Republicans have long been supportive of the War on Drugs, the topic of legalizing marijuana came up during the second presidential debate Sept. 16 and a number of GOP candidates said they would like to reform the criminal justice system to include less severe punishments for drug offenders.
As the public increasingly supports treatment-based approaches to helping people who use drugs, politicians are starting to catch up. A Pew Research Center report from April 2014 found that 67 percent of Americans say the government should focus on providing treatment for drug offenders instead of prosecuting them. While Democrats are more supportive of this tactic than Republicans, 51 percent of Republicans agreed the government should focus on treatment. Gallup has also found that there is increasing support for legalizing marijuana, although those numbers remain at a slim majority.
However, Carson does not seem concerned by these trends or by his fellow Republicans’ stances on the issue. Carson has been polling very well in recent weeks, beating Donald Trump 28 percent to 20 percent in an Iowa poll released Thursday. After his initial answer, Beck pressed the retired neurosurgeon on his enthusiasm for the War on Drugs. “Let me ask you a question,” Beck said, pausing to figure out his next words. “How -- I mean, it doesn't seem to be working now.”
Again, Carson appeared steady. “Yeah well, go down to the border in Arizona like I was a few weeks ago. I mean, it's an open highway, and the federal government isn't doing anything to stop it,” Carson said. Beck then asked if Carson would legalize marijuana and Carson said, “I disagree with it.”
Carson has previously called marijuana a “gateway drug” and spoken out against it in other interviews.
“I think medical use of marijuana in compassionate cases certainly has been proven to be useful. But recognize that marijuana is what’s known as a gateway drug. It tends to be a starter drug for people who move onto heavier duty drugs – sometimes legal, sometimes illegal – and I don’t think this is something that we really want for our society,” Carson said in a 2014 interview with Fox News. “You know, we’re gradually just removing all the barriers to hedonistic activity, and you know, it’s just, we’re changing so rapidly to a different type of society and nobody is getting a chance to discuss it because, you know, it’s taboo. It’s politically incorrect. You’re not supposed to talk about these things.”