By Edwin Mora

(CNSNews.com) – While pointing out that it is the responsibility of the federal government to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) said Thursday it is cheaper to treat teens for drug use than it is to interdict drugs being smuggled across the border.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

CNSNews.com pointed out to the speaker at her weekly press briefing that a recent Justice Department report indicated that one in five U.S. teenagers used drugs last year, and then asked: “Are you committed to sealing the border against the influx of illegal drugs from Mexico and, if so, do you have a target date in mind for getting that done?”
 
“Well if your question is about drugs, I’m for reducing demand in the United States,” said Pelosi. “That is what our responsibility is on this subject. The RAND Corporation a few years ago did a report that said it would be much less expensive for us to, through prevention first and foremost, but through treatment on demand to reduce demand in our country, is the cheapest way to solve this problem.
 
“Incarceration is the next cheapest,” Pelosi continued. “It costs seven times more to incarcerate than to have treatment on demand. It costs 15 times more to interdict at the border. And it costs 25 times more with eradication of the cocoa leaf. This is an issue that it is very important to our country because of what it’s doing to our teenagers. That is the problem, what it is doing to our people.”

The RAND Corporation is a non-partisan, non-profit institution aimed at helping to “improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis.”

According to the Justice Department’s National Drug Threat Assessment for 2010, “Nineteen percent of youth aged 12 to 17 report past year illicit drug use.” The assessment said that Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are now the predominant supplier of illegal drugs in the United States. “Law enforcement reporting and case initiation data show that Mexican DTOs control most of the wholesale cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine distribution in the United States, as well as much of the marijuana distribution,” said the assessment.

Pelosi did say it was the responsibility of the federal government to control the border, although she did not believe that would prevent illicit drug use by teens in the United States.

“Controlling our border is our responsibility,” she said. “So, whether you’re talking about stopping drugs from coming in or having a well-managed migration policy, we have a responsibility to secure our border. But I don’t know what you meant by ‘seal’ and I think sealing the border doesn’t do a whole lot to reduce demand in the United States. As I travel the country, I know that kids are on meth and they can make it in their bath tub.”
 
To solve the drug problem, she said, requires reducing demand. “Let’s secure our border for every reason that we have responsibility to do so,” she said, “but if it’s talk, if our purpose is to solve that problem, we must reduce demand and the best way to do that is through prevention and through treatment on demand.”

Last week, CNSNews.com similarly asked Rep. Raul Grijalva (D.-Ariz.), who represents a district that covers 300 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, if he was committed to sealing the border against the inflow of illegal drugs. Rather than answer the question, Grijalva turned and walked away, eventually shouting back at the reporter that it was “punkish” to ask the question.
 
Transcript of Speaker Pelosi’s answer to CNSNews.com’s question on stopping illicit drug traffic across U.S.-Mexico border:
 
CNSNews.com: Madame Speaker, the Justice Department has reported that one in five teenagers used illicit drugs last year and that most of those drugs came across the border from Mexico. Are you committed to sealing the border against the influx of illegal drugs from Mexico and, if so, do you have a target date in mind for getting that done?
 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): “Well if your question is about drugs, I’m for reducing demand in the United States. That is what our responsibility is on this subject. The RAND Corporation a few years ago did a report that said it would be much less expensive for us to, through prevention first and foremost, but through treatment on demand to reduce demand in our country, is the cheapest way to solve this problem.

“Incarceration is the next cheapest. It costs seven times more to incarcerate than to have treatment on demand. It costs 15 times more to interdict at the border. And it costs 25 times more with eradication of the cocoa leaf. This is an issue that it is very important to our country because of what it’s doing to our teenagers. That is the problem, what it is doing to our people.
 
“Controlling our border is our responsibility. So, whether you’re talking about stopping drugs from coming in or having a well-managed migration policy, we have a responsibility to secure our border. But I don’t know what you meant by ‘seal’ and I think sealing the border doesn’t do a whole lot to reduce demand in the United States. As I travel the country, I know that kids are on meth and they can make it in their bath tub. So, again if the issue is predicated on your first premise, which is one in five teenagers in America has used drugs, is that the point?
 
CNSNews.com: “Yes.”
 
Pelosi: “Okay, so let’s, you know, let’s secure our border for every reason that we have responsibility to do so, but if it’s talk, if our purpose is to solve that problem, we must reduce demand and the best way to do that is through prevention and through treatment on demand.”

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