Pubdate: Tue, 08 Jan 2013
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2013 SF Newspaper Company LLC
Author: Chris Roberts


The nation's top drug cop advocated a "different approach" to 
narcotics enforcement - and stressed that there is no "war on drugs" 
- - but had stern words Monday for the San Francisco-bred medical 
marijuana movement.

Drug users need treatment and education rather than jail terms, 
according to Gil Kerlikowske, the former Seattle police chief who now 
heads President Barack Obama's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Speaking at a gathering of law enforcement officers at the University 
of San Francisco, Kerlikowske also said that calling cannabis 
medicine "sends a terrible message" to the nation's teens. High 
school students are more likely to smoke marijuana than tobacco due 
to the growing "perception" that marijuana is less harmful, he said.

"We have to ask if we doing everything we can to empower them to make 
a healthy decision about their future," he said.

Kerlikowske was in town to highlight the Obama Adminstration's 
"21st-century" approach toward drug use. Also in attendance were 
Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr, and Berkeley 
chief of police Michael Meehan - who served under Kerlikowske as a 
narcotics captain on the Seattle police force.

San Francisco has more than 20 licensed and taxpaying medical 
marijuana dispensaries. Across California, there are more than 1,000 
- - all of which pay state sales tax - according to Americans for Safe 
Access, a medical marijuana users' advocacy group.

Federal law enforcement officials have long been at odds with state 
and local policymakers on medical marijuana. Pressure from the 
federal Justice Department has shut down seven San Francisco medical 
marijuana dispensaries since Oct. 2011.

Before taking office, Obama said that marijuana would not be a law 
enforcement priority for his administration. Attorney General Eric 
Holder reiterated that statement, though U.S. prosecutors have since 
noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and a public 
health nuisance.

Kerlikowske noted that neither he nor his office have any sway over 
the Justice Department, and "I wouldn't suppose that I should tell 
The City what to do differently."

California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal 
purposes in 1996. Today, eighteen states and the District of Columbia 
now allow the medical use of marijuana, and adults in two states - 
Colorado and Washington - can legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

Kerlikowske had stern words for legalization, which is often painted 
as a solution to the public health and budget woes caused by drug 
use. "The Obama Administration strongly believes it is a false 
choice," he said, and not "ground in science."

"Medicinal marijuana has never been through the FDA process," he 
added. "We have the world's most renowned process to decide what is 
medicine and what should go in peoples' bodies. And marijuana has 
never been through that process."

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco and 
elsewhere have found that cannabis may be effective in relieving 
"wasting symptoms" caused by cancer and HIV/AIDS, may aid sleep and 
stimulate appetite, and may be effective in treating chronic pain and 
other ailments.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom