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New Drug Czar Nominated; ONDCP To Be Removed From The Cabinet

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director March 12, 2009

    Well, some of the much vaunted and promised ‘change’ under a President Obama appears to be coming true in the formal nomination yesterday of Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, and the mainstream media certainly seems to be picking up on all of the positive and salient points about Chief Kerlikowske that drug policy reform advocates have been touting since his name was first floated almost a month ago. Listen to the coverage of the announcement at National Public Radio.

    Meet The New Boss...Sure Aint Like The Ol Boss

    Unlike the prior Drug Czar, John ‘Unicorn’ Walters, a moral crusader (aptly dubbed Bill Bennett’s ‘Mini-Me’ by the DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann), Chief Kerlikowske crafted pragmatic public policies and law enforcement practices that immediately distinguish him from his predecessors such as Bennett, Gen. Barry McCaffrey and Walters.

    To wit:

    200,000 pro-reform cannabis law supporters converge on the waterfront in Seattle in mid-August for the world famous Hempfest, where adults openly consume cannabis and the hundreds of police present make few to no arrests (and where, ironically, alcohol use is strictly forbidden).

    Local law enforcement in Seattle apparently does not harass the artisans who craft and market the remarkable glass paraphernalia (AKA, medical delivery devices) for which Seattle is famous.

    Compare that with Walters’ and former Attorney General Ashcroft’s zealous pursuit and culture-smashing symbolism of arresting, prosecuting and actually incarcerating NORML Advisory Board member Tommy Chong for nine months in a federal prison for the ‘crime’ of selling high-end artisan, Chong Bongs.

    Seattle police have a generally good track record working with medical cannabis providers, physicians and patients—including Chief Kerlikowske meeting with medical cannabis stakeholders about how to best implement Washington State’s 2000 medical cannabis laws. Compare this with Walters and McCaffrey who collectively spent 14 years insisting that there is no such thing at all as medical cannabis (often comparing it to crack cocaine), patients who claim efficacy or relief from cannabis as ‘fakers’, recommending physicians as ‘kooks’ and the majority of citizens who’ve voted for medical cannabis law reform as ‘easily duped by legalizers’.

    Rumor has it that Chief Kerlikowske has actually employed the term ‘harm reduction‘ in a sentence without employing foul language! In fact, under his leadership (and that of former Seattle Police Chief and NORML Advisory Board member Norm Stamper before him) Seattle police both recognize and practice the increasingly popular, European-inspired police/public health doctrine known as harm reduction. Two of the important tenets of harm reduction are concentrating police resources on so-called ‘hard’ drugs rather than cannabis consumers and needle exchange to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases–both championed by Chief Kerlikowske, and totally dismissed as ‘tools for legalization’ by McCaffrey and Walters.

    Despite publicly opposing a reform effort in 2003 in Seattle to make adult cannabis possession a low law enforcement priority, once I-75 was passed by a majority of voters, Chief Kerlikowske shrugged off the lost, embraced the public-health centric arguments advanced by reform advocates, and met with law reformers in the Seattle-area like I-75 campaigner and NORML board member Dominic Holden, defense attorney and NORML Board member Jeff Steinborn, popular travel author/TV host and NORML advisory board member Rick Steves.

    John Walters on the otherhand would not even appear in the same green room with me backstage on TV news show, let alone debate live on the same sound stage.

    Looks to me like Chief Kerlikowske is a real man…not a moralistic, lie-to-beat-the-band bureaucrat.

    Chief Kerlikowske’s former colleagues on the police force, cannabis law reform activists, medical patients, civil rights lawyers and public health officials all seem to recognize that science and ‘smart on crime’ (as compared to ‘tough on crime’ and ineffective platitudes like ‘just say no’ or ‘drug-free America’) drive his policing—not ideology and a twisted sense of personal morality.

    With the recent report from a pair of WA researchers affirming that the ONDCP under McCaffrey and Walters obsessed too much on cannabis prohibition, and not enough on meth, crack, heroin…a decided change in leadership at ONDCP can’t happen fast enough.

    Lastly, it was also announced yesterday by the 1980s congressional author of the ONDCP charter, no less and with sweet karmic irony, Vice President Joe Biden, that despite the best intentions of placing the ONDCP into the President’s cabinet in 1988, from this point forward the ONDCP is no longer going to be a cabinet-level office.

    Whoa. Now that is change NORML and taxpayers can believe in!

    30 Responses to “New Drug Czar Nominated; ONDCP To Be Removed From The Cabinet”

    1. SAINT RICO says:

      Just one more reason why we’re (me&my girl) are saving to move to the northwest….people are just smarter up there; it would seem.

    2. silo says:

      woot! change is comin awesome!

    3. Marcos says:

      finally, I see Weed being decrimilized, or legalized, very soon, im glad that piece of crap mc cain wasnt elected ,all hail the present Obama, change is coming, peace out.

    4. David says:

      That’s all well and good, but…

      Instead of putting cannabis users into prison, are we all now going to be thrown into rehab for possession? And if we refuse treatment, do we go to prison?

      I’d like to know this ASAP! I think we all would. I know he was just nominated yesterday, but let’s not get too happy until we have some answers.

      I’m feeling very cautiously optimistic at the moment. I just don’t feel like getting my hopes up just yet, especially if the marijuana issue continues to be ignored and swept under the rug, rather than dealt with so that we can finally stop being called criminals.

    5. Vote like a Beast says:

      OK! The President made a wise choice on Drug Czar. Now would be a good time for NORML to get out the history books and review what went wrong last time. I’m talking about Peter Bourne in 1978. Look it up ! Educate yourself ! Let’s not make the same mistake again, I can’t wait another 30 years.
      This new guy may be an improvement but he’s still going to do an awful lot to outrage you. Count on it. It’s his job. My take is he’s going to enforce the law until it is changed. Your not going to like it.
      CHANGE THE LAW: CONGRESS WRITES THE LAWS, NOT THE EXECUTIVE. It’s time to mobilize those 60% + margins we marshal for med and decrim elections to clean house in congress. Case in point, Colorado is a progressive Med state. It’s one of the most promissing states for general MJ reform. Yet it also elected 2 DRUG WAR CRIMINALS. Rep. Joe Rice, D-Glendale, and in the Senate by Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Boulder. Google the article “WHEN COPS ARE THIEVES”
      These two young, progressive, Democrats from progressive districts feel no political danger in sponsoring a bill returning us to the REAGAN-CLINTON dark ages of forfiture. I See where there is a legal confrence coming up in Aspen in June. If I hear a lot of noise about defeating Rep. Joe Rice, D-Glendale, and in the Senate by Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Boulder at this cinference I will know NORML is serious. If all I hear is more of the same old begging I’ll finally give it up.

    6. Jake says:

      I agree with #5 everything you said is on point. Im optimistic but I dont see any legalization coming or the feds decriming lol, and yes this drug czar might be cool at a local, state level, but when he gets to the big leagues I fear he will crumble to the man, and be another puppet. I hope im wrong but I just cant imagine not getting thrown in jail for growing buds.

    7. John says:

      Just take a look at Joe Bidens face behind Kerlikowske. LOOKS LIKE A ATE A LEMON. Classic!
      There is a God after all…
      I sense the Tide is tyurning with a vengeance. The medical community is finally behind this. Public opinion, especially on the west coast is behind this. The Politicians are starting to wake up.
      It’s going to happen folks!
      A new day has dawned. Prohibitions days are numbered. If the Federal government finally recognizes Cannabis/Marijuana’s medical properties they will reluctantly reshedule it. I say that because they will be under intense pressure from some very strong lobbyists. the prison workers union (The most powerful in the state of california and primarily comp[osed of law enforcement) The Beer and Big Tobacco companies. Cotton, Lumber are others that come to mind. It’s not an uphill battle anymore folks. We are on level ground now.
      A new day has indeed dawned. Prohibitions days are numbered. We’ve got to push for the right to grow our own plants at home for our own practical use a la beer and wine. I hope and pray for a day when we can raise our own strains in our own backyards. to be able to grow our own medicine? Wow, now theres a thought!

    8. Rick says:

      I hope John Walters is laughed at and ridiculed every time he shows his lying face in public.

    9. David says:

      John Walters is one of the greatest frauds of the past decade. I too hope he gets what’s coming to him.

    10. James says:

      So to say the least Biden will be Obama’s closes advisor on drugs? MMMM lets think here the guy has such an up and down record on everything he probably doesn’t realize what he voted on

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