Pubdate: Tue, 19 May 2009
Source: Daily Nexus (UC Santa Barbara, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2009 Daily Nexus
Author: Jonathan Nightingale


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.

Daily Nexus drug columnist Jonathan Nightingale is glad Washington has
more than just good apples. 
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