Top-ranking House Democrat: US drug policy is 'unfinished business' for Trump administration

The incoming Trump administration’s “number one goal” in the Western Hemisphere should be to solidify the gains the Obama administration has made, Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democratic congressman from New York, argued in an op-ed on Wednesday.

Engel, the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, argued the Trump administration should work to extend the US diplomatic presence in the eastern Caribbean, increasing US involvement with governments in the region particularly on energy and security matters.

Engel also emphasised the need to reevaluate “supply-side drug policies” pursued by the US government in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Noting that billions of dollars spent on counter-narcotics programs had yielded “mixed results, at best,” Engel said:

“We need to take an honest look at what has worked and what has failed as we consider how to spend our counternarcotics dollars going forward. With heroin use on the rise here at home, our children deserve no less than a fair evaluation of our drug policy.”

In the US, popular sentiment has moved away from staunch anti-drug policies, particularly regarding marijuana. A poll in September found 58% of voters in favour of marijuana legalization.

In the November election, recreational-marijuana initiatives in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada were approved by voters, while medical-marijuana initiatives in Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas were successful.

Trump’s stance toward drug policy is not totally clear, as he has flip-flopped in the issue in the past.

Trump’s intention to appoint Jeff Sessions as his attorney general has marijuana advocates worried that the Justice Department will take a more hostile stance toward state initiatives legalizing the drug for recreational and medical use, even though Trump himself has said it should be a state issue.

“We need grownups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalised, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” Sessions said in April, adding that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

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