Pubdate: Wed, 15 Jun 2011
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


In what way is Barack Obama similar to Richard Nixon (aside from
ramping up someone else's foreign war)? Turns out common ground can
also be found between Tricky Dick and BHO II when it comes to the drug

A few weeks ago we told you about California NORML unhappily celebrating
the 100th anniversary of American marijuana prohibition. But it seems
there is another milestone to "celebrate" in the War on Drugs: It was 40
years ago this week when the term "drug war" itself entered our
zeitgeist. Following that, there was a steady parade of one million dope
smokers, sniffers, and shooters entering our criminal justice system

To mark the occasion, police officers who comprise the promarijuana
legalization group -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition -- decided
to pay a visit to one of their brethren: drug czar Gil Kerlikowske,
the former Seattle police chief who is now head of the White House
Office of Drug Control Policy.

It was Kerlikowske who two years ago declared the War on Drugs was
over -- sorta. What he really wanted was a departure from the "war"
analogy. But the problem with that is the tactics of the antidrug
effort resemble a gun battle more than they do a public health
struggle. So the LEAP crew tried to hand-deliver to Kerlikowske a
report released Tuesday, which takes Obama to task for "ramping up a
drug war it claims it ended."

Kerlikowske was anything but receptive to his brothers in blue; he
declined to see them, instead sending a staffer get the report.

The report holds Obama accountable for his drug-friendly public
statements -- like declaring the War on Drugs a failure during the
campaign, which has yet to turn into policy. Obama, like his two
predecessors, "used illicit drugs and then went on to have [a]
productive [life]," the report says. "In deed, if not in word,
President Obama has presided over a drug war that has been waged at a
rate virtually indistinguishable from that of his recent

It was on June 17, 1971, that Nixon told Congress that "America's
public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to
fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out

This all-out offensive was ramped up in the 1980s, when Nancy Reagan's
"Just Say No" campaign started. Since that campaign, which coincided
with the crack epidemic, there has been a steady increase in cost and
drug casualties, according to figures included in LEAP's report, titled:
"Ending the Drug War: A Dream Deferred."

Hardened observers of the drug war won't find much new in the 20-page
report -- though it's sometimes handy to be reminded that, ironically,
drug-related killings in Mexico have increased 60 percent from 2009 to
2010. Yet they were essentially nonexistent in 2006, the same year
Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his crackdown on the cartels,
which now control drug markets in 230 American cities. That's notable
because it's signed off on by a cadre of current and former narcotics
officers, chiefs of police, prosecutors, and other former drug warriors.

Sometimes the messenger is everything.

And then again, sometimes it's not, as was the case Tuesday when these
same cops were not allowed access to Kerlikowske.

"The fact that he refused to sit down with us and discuss these issues
speaks volumes about how much the Obama Administration would rather
ignore the failed War on Drugs than do anything to actually address
it," says Neil Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics cop who now
serves as LEAP's executive director. 
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