Dr. Joycelyn Elders is no stranger to controversy. In 1994, the former Surgeon General was forced to resign her post by former President Bill Clinton, who was under pressure from Republican lawmakers. Elders had offended right-wing politicians with her progressive stances on sex education, her criticism of the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion and her belief that the government should study the legalization of drugs such as marijuana.
So it's no surprise that she offered a few scathing remarks about America's drug policy at the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC), which took place in San Francisco last weekend. Elders - the keynote speaker - met with Romain Bonilla of Marijuana Politics for an interview in which she said that the War on Drugs was really a race war:
"Marijuana has never killed anybody. It's never caused a lot of the things that we [opponents to legalization] are saying. And it's really been a war, if you will, against young black men and Hispanic men and more people of color. And in neighborhoods of color."
But prohibition, she added, hasn't been a complete failure. It's been a huge boon for the prison-building industry:
"We've spent trillions of dollars...on something that has really made no difference...all it's done is made us build bigger, better prisons. The cost of keeping one prisoner in prison for one year is from twenty-one to forty thousand dollars a year. And we could send a lot of young people - we could send them to college for less than we pay to keep them in our prison system."
Here's the full interview: