Obama Open to Debate on Drug War, But Legalization Is 'Not the Answer'

Amid calls from Latin American leaders to legalize drugs, President Obama said today that he is open to the debate but that legalizing narcotics to counter drug trafficking in the Americas could make matters worse.

"I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places. I personally, and my administration's position, is that legalization is not the answer," Obama said at the Summit of the Americas.

Legalization has gained traction in Latin America as a possible solution to the illegal drug trade, which has had devastating effects on parts of the region. Several of the United States' closest allies back the idea and also claim more needs to be done to slow demand from within the United States.

"If you think about how it would end up operating, that the capacity of a large-scale drug trade to dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint could be just as corrupting if not more corrupting then the status quo," Obama told a gathering of top executives at the summit.

"Nevertheless, I'm a big believer in looking at the evidence, having a debate," he said. "I think ultimately what we're going to find is, is that the way to solve this problem is both in the United States, us dealing with demand in a more effective way, but it's also going to be strengthening institutions at home."