PUBLISHED: 18:23 EST, 22 August 2012 | UPDATED: 18:25 EST, 22 August 2012
A Chicago politician who has crusaded to legalize marijuana in the city shocked a crowd this week when she said former President Ronald Reagan ‘deserves a special place in hell’ for waging the War on Drugs.
Cook County, Illinois, Board President Toni Preckwinkle was forced to apologize for her ‘inflammatory’ remarks, though she stood by the sentiment behind them.
Preckwinkle made the comment at an Illinois drug policy meeting at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
Outspoken: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle blasted the deceased former president for ‘politicizing drug use’
The Chicago Tribune reports that the Chicago Democrat was talking about her greatest accomplishment, which was decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana — making it a mere ticket, rather than an arrestable offense.
A Republican state lawmaker at the conference questioned how tickets help to change drug abuse behavior — since it amounts to a slap on the wrist.
Preckwinkle said she believes drug abuse is a medical matter — and not one for the justice system.
Then, she added ‘Ronald Reagan deserves a special place in hell’ for ‘making drug use political.’
Revered: Ronald Reagan, one of the most respected modern Republican presidents, died in 2004
When the shocked crowd gasped, she replied: ‘What? You didn’t like that?’
Reagan, long one of the most popular Republican presidents, is the gold standard of conservatism for many in the party — uniting both establishment Republicans and Tea Party members.
The 40th president, who died in 2004 from Alzheimer’s Disease, is credited by many as bringing about the downfall of the Soviet Union. He won reelection in 1984 with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
In 1986, he took a tougher stance on illegal drugs declaring a ‘War on Drugs’ that included mandatory minimum sentences for anyone arrested of federal drug offenses.
‘I think it was a really unfortunate choice of words to speak of one of the most revered presidents of the 20th century in that manner,’ Cook County Commissioner Timothy Schneider, a Republican, told the Tribune.
In an interview with the Tribune, Preckwinkle called her comment ‘inflammatory’ and apologized. But, she stood by her dismissive tone of Reagan’s War on Drugs.
‘Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first or the last, but he was certainly the most prominent at the very beginning,’ she said.