Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kerlikowske to be next drug czar

The Seattle newspapers (Seattle Times here) (the Post Intelligencer) are reporting that Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske (since 2000) has been asked by the Obama Administration to be the next Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy at The White House.

Before Seattle, in the Clinton Adminstration, Kerlikowske had been the deputy director of the Office of Community Oriented Police Services at the Department of Justice. Previously he had been the Police Commissioner in Buffalo, NY, and Police Chief in two Florida cities, Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce.

In Seattle, he opposed the effort to pass Initiative 75 to make marijuana possession offenses the lowest priority for enforcement in Seattle. But once it passed, it appears that he did not work to frustrate the law. (This is in marked contrast with authorities in other cities and in Massachusetts who have disregarded such laws.)

Leaders of the medical marijuana community in Seattle (which has a state law recognizing the legal status of marijuana for medical purposes) expressed pleasure that on hearing his appointment.

"Oh God bless us," said Joanna McKee, co-founder and director of Green Cross Patient Co-Op, a medical-marijuana patient-advocacy group. "What a blessing — the karma gods are smiling on the whole country, man."

McKee said Kerlikowske knows the difference between cracking down on the illegal abuse of drugs and allowing the responsible use of marijuana.

Here is some advice for him from Mark Kleiman (UCLA) and Harold Pollack (University of Chicago).

Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML blogged about the appointment on the website of the Washington, DC political newspaper, The Hill.
He’s served 36 years in law enforcement, and it would be foolish to assume that he will embrace the public’s desire to amend America’s antiquated and overly punitive pot policies with open arms. That said, NORML is cautiously optimistic that Kerlikowske may bring a progressive approach to an agency that has, almost since its inception, operated in the ‘Dark Ages.’

The day the U.S. government finally — and properly — recognizes that drug use is a public health problem and not solely a criminal justice issue will be the day that the President appoints a White House ‘Drug Czar’ who possesses a professional background in public health, addiction, and treatment rather than in law enforcement.

But until that day arrives, perhaps the best we reformers can hope for is a cop who appreciates that pot poses less of a danger to the public than alcohol, and who recognizes that from a practical and fiscal standpoint, targeting and arresting adults who engage in the responsible use of cannabis doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. At first glance, Obama’s pick, unlike his predecessor, appears to possess both of these common sense qualities.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: