Pubdate: Tue, 13 Aug 2013
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2013 McClatchy Newspapers
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers
Page: A4


WASHINGTON - U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske is leaving office 
unceremoniously, forgotten long before he was ever known to most Americans.

But for those leading the push to legalize marijuana, he will be 
remembered as the tough-talking former police chief from Seattle and 
ex-Buffalo police commissioner who never yielded on the question of 
legalization, always warning of the health dangers linked to smoking pot.

That stance put him at odds with the growing majority of Americans 
who now back legalization.

As Kerlikowske, 63, heads for a possible job as the U.S. Customs and 
Border Protection commissioner following his nomination by President 
Obama earlier this month, his exit prompts suggestions that America's 
drug czar has become irrelevant and whether Obama should bother with 
a replacement.

"One of the most helpful things the president can do right now is to 
not spend money on filling that position," said Seattle City Attorney 
Pete Holmes, whose office stopped prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana 
cases in 2010.

But legalization opponents say it would be a mistake to eliminate the 
office. They see it as a crucial vehicle for making clear to 
Americans the dangers and damages of a wide range of other 
drugs  from methamphetamine to cocaine to heroin  that should be kept illegal.

Kerlikowske's spokesman, Rafael Lemaitre, said the drug czar wasn't 
granting any interviews as he awaited a Senate confirmation hearing 
for his new job. But he gave his boss high marks, saying he'd 
expanded drug treatment and helped steer thousands of drug offenders 
into treatment instead of prisons.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom