A week or two ago, the United States’ legislature overwhelmingly voted to confirm the Obama Administration’s nomination of former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske to be our new Drug Czar. As the head of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, Mr. Kerlikowske is the top bureaucrat involved in this nation’s War on Drugs. Despite the 91-1 confirmation vote, he did face some criticism, which stemmed mostly from the fact that he was in charge of policing Seattle. The northwestern state is host to a number of progressive drug policies, including the designation of marijuana as the lowest police priority, as well as home to the annual Hempfest “protestival,” where tens of thousands of marijuana enthusiasts come to celebrate the herb and protest its prohibition. This has led some people to criticize Obama’s pick. However, it was apparently clear to Congress that he was just following the voter-approved laws in Seattle.
In recent interviews with members of the mainstream press (the White House wouldn’t give me any access to him for some reason), the new top narc discussed some of his goals and what his exact thoughts are on the nation’s fight against drugs that he has been called upon to lead.
Ironically, the point he tried hardest to make was that he does not want the War on Drugs to be continued to be called a “war.” Even though it is being fought with military equipment and techniques with the goal of taking away certain groups of people’s liberty, Kerlikowske insists that his office will be taking a broader look at the problem of drug addiction in how he shapes his policies. Simply arresting drug users and eventually just throwing them out into the streets has not been working, he conceded, and the administration must do a better job at promoting treatment when dealing with drugs.
When asked about the nation’s biggest drug problem, his answer was the wrongful use of prescription medications, which kills thousands every year. This positive development is a radical departure from our previous Drug Czar, John Walters, who can be held responsible for all the stupid anti-marijuana commercials filled with things like talking dogs. (By the way, if anyone knows where I can get the weed that girl was smoking, please let me know immediately.) Most drug-related problems — and I will admit that there are many — do not come from marijuana, and it’s good to see someone in a position of power who recognizes this. Everyone should realize by now that the gateway drug theory is a bunch of bullshit, so hopefully the government will stop arresting people for smoking some marijuana in an attempt to prevent people from overdosing on something like Oxycontin.
The new Drug Czar also gave comments acknowledging the possible cuts in funding and the importance of police forces to be smart and efficient with their efforts. A cop being taken off the streets for four hours while arresting and booking someone for minor drug possession might not be the best use of funds. Hopefully the law enforcement officials in Isla Vista take note.
Although he does not favor legalization, it is clear that Gil Kerlikowske will take a more pragmatic and thoughtful approach to his job than most others we have seen in his position. It is refreshing to see someone who actually looks at the facts in his approach to drug policy. Furthermore, his support for clean-needle exchange programs to reduce the harmful effects of hard drug addiction and his strong support for governmental funding for children’s programs as a crime-fighting strategy show that Kerlikowske has the ability to think critically and creatively to help solve the highly politicized and always complex issue of drug use and abuse.