08/22/2012 01:43 pm ET Updated Aug 22, 2012

Toni Preckwinkle Reagan Slam: Cook County Board President Retracts 'Hell' Remark

The chief executive of the second-most populous county in the nation quickly backpedaled Tuesday after making a comment about former President Ronald Reagan she later called "inflammatory."

During a conference led by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar in downstate Champaign, Ill., Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stated that Reagan deserves "a special place in hell" for his drug policy and the "war on drugs" that followed in its wake, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The comment reportedly was met with the audible gasp of many audience members and Preckwinkle later Tuesday admitted that she regretted making the remark about the deceased Illinois-native former president and conservative icon.

Preckwinkle clarified that she remains critical of the ramped-up enforcement of drug laws that occurred during the Reagan administration.

"If I had it to do over again, I certainly wouldn't say anything quite so inflammatory. But my position basically remains the same," she told the Tribune.

"[U]sually I’m more careful about my language," Preckwinkle explained to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Tuesday did not mark the first time that Preckwinkle has lashed out against U.S. drug policy. During a rally last year, she said the United States' war on drugs "has failed" in its aim to stymy drug use and has, instead, resulted in mass incarceration.

The war on drugs comes, Preckwinkle continued last June, "at a tremendous social and economic cost to all of us. The cost is too great to continue fighting this war on drugs with so little success."

Later that month, Cook County's chief executive urged Chicago police officers to stop making low-level drug possession arrests, a cause that Mayor Rahm Emanuel took up when he introduced a marijuana ticketing ordinance earlier this year.

The mayor's ordinance called for the city's police force to have the option to ticket those caught with as much as 15 grams of marijuana, rather than arresting them -- unless they are caught in public or on schools grounds or in a public park.

The ordinance was approved by the City Council in a 43-3 vote in June and went into effect earlier this month.

Preckwinkle previously called the ordinance "a step in the right direction" that would "help reduce the jail population, save money for taxpayers and eliminate criminal justice disparities."



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