Obama: Drug legalization not the answer to cartels

President Barack Obama participates in a three-way conversation with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (not pictured) at the CEO Summit of the Americas, in Cartagena, Colombia, Saturday, April 14, 2012.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

(AP) CARTAGENA, Colombia - President Barack Obama said Saturday legalizing drug use is not the answer to trafficking in illegal narcotics in the Americas, countering a growing chorus in Latin America to discuss decriminalization as a way to ease deadly cartel violence.

Mr. Obama says he is open to having a debate about legalization, but he doesn't believe it will lead to an agreement to legalize drugs.

President Obama was speaking to an assembly of top executives from the hemisphere as part of the sixth Summit of the Americas here.

The president said the answer to the drug cartels is societies that have strong economics, rules of law, and a law enforcement infrastructure that is sound.

He said the responsibility also rests with countries that are big destinations for the drugs to reduce demand for illegal narcotics.