Seattle Post-Intelligencer: City’s Police Chief To Be Next Drug Czar

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 11, 2009

    Update!!! Update!!! Update!!! 

    Please tune in to NORML’s podcast tonight at 4:20pst when host Russ Belville will interview former Seattle Police Chief and NORML Advisory Board Member Norm Stamper regarding the selection of colleague Gil Kerlikowke as Drug Czar.

    According to just published news reports, President Barack Obama has tapped Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske to be the nation’s next ‘Drug Czar.’

    From Seattle’s top cop to ‘drug czar’
    via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer


    Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has been appointed to a law enforcement post within the Obama administration, which would return him to Washington, D.C., after almost a decade as Seattle’s top cop, sources said Tuesday.

    … Kerlikowske came to Seattle in 2000 after serving as deputy director in the Justice Department, overseeing the Community Oriented Policing Services grant program. A military veteran with 36 years in law enforcement, he spent four years as Buffalo’s police commissioner after starting his career in Florida.

    On the positive side, Kerlikowske hails from Seattle — a city that has elected to make the enforcement marijuana crimes cops’ lowest priority. And although the police chief spoke out against the initiative effort — which passed with 58 percent of the vote in 2003 — he’s abided by the will of the people since then. As a result, there are now fewer marijuana-related arrests in Seattle than in virtually any other major city in the United States.

    On the negative side, Kerlikowske is first and foremost a cop. He’s served 36 years in law enforcement, and it is foolish to assume that he will in any way embrace our issue with open arms. That said, I find myself in cautious agreement with NORML Board Member (and longtime Seattle resident) Dominic Holden, who believes 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 John Walters — appears to possess both of these common sense qualities.

    41 responses to “Seattle Post-Intelligencer: City’s Police Chief To Be Next Drug Czar”

    1. paul armentano says:


      February 11, 2009

      Leagalization Groups Warm to Reported Drug Czar Pick
      @ 2:59 pm by Michael O’Brien

      The man the Obama administration is looking at to possibly become the next Drug Czar is being met with cautious optimism by proponents of the decriminalism of marijuana and a treatment-based national drug policy.

      Seattle Police Chief Gil Gil Kerlikowske is being looked at for a job in the Obama administration, a Democratic official confirmed Wednesday, while the Seattle Times reported that Kerlikowske had accepted the position tasked with crafting drug policy, likely assuming the position in spring or summer.

      The nomination received positive, though measured, reactions from groups advocating the end of the War on Drugs.

      “I would clearly identify it as a step in the right direction,” said Norm Stamper, who preceded Kerlikowske as Seattle’s chief of police, and now serves on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “He is a thoughtful individual; i think he can be influenced by research and would be more inclined than previous drug czars to rely on evidence-based solutions.”

      “This is a police chief that’s had to work with users of medical marijuana and growers; he lives in the real world,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML. “It would mark a clean break from the Barry McCaffrey and John Walters style of leadership on this issue,” he added, in reference to earlier drug czars whose tenures had emphasized a law enforcement approach.

      “Based on what I have read, the nominee would be a far better choice than anyone the Republicans would have put forward for the position,” said William Redpath, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of the United States, who said he was not previously familiar with Kerlikowske. “The best choice of all for this post…would have been to nominate nobody and to announce that the Administration was going to work with the Congress to end federal drug prohibition in order to pass responsibility to the states, which is what occurred at the end of the federal prohibition of alcohol.”

      Stamper said that he hopes the move will mean an end to the War on Drugs, though he is not optimistic, and added that he had not spoken with Kerlikowske about the job.

      Several organizations supporting a law enforcement-based approach for U.S. drug law could not immediately be reached for comment.

    2. Jerry says:

      Oh boy !!! I’m first to comment !
      Walters was dumb . Brainwashed by the Alcohol , Drug companies so , the new drug czar brings new hope . I think it’ll be a good change . I am dissapointed in , Obama though for not keeping his campaign promises .

    3. pedro says:

      “baby steps”….

    4. BEANO says:

      I, at a first glace, do not like the decision of Obama to appoint Gil Kerlikowske as our new drug czar. It just seems like this man will do exactly what Walters did – lie and do it a lot. I especially do not like that our tax payers’ dollars are paying for someone to:

      “(12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that–

      1. is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and
      2. has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;”

      That Drug Czar article really makes me mad! What a waste of money! The more in-depth that you get into with reform of marijuana laws, more absurd and ridiculous red tape will smack your face and leave you in a dead end. I really hope I’m wrong about what I said. I hope he does a good job. I just honestly don’t think that will happen…

    5. Gabriel Robles says:

      were F*cked

    6. gregor says:

      He kind of looks like an undercover stoner. Im pretty sure he’s chewin on a stem in that pic. 😉

    7. David says:

      God help us.

    8. Glen says:

      We need to ask Obama if this was his choice, or Bidens. That will tell the whole story.

    9. tim tom says:

      I think Obama has failed us with this pick. Yeah medical marijuana may not be raided anymore, but no doubt that marijuana smokers will continue to be arrested. Change? This sounds like the status quo to me. Maybe people will start to wake up that Obama really is a fraud and has no intention of bringing any real change to Washington.

    10. Jeff says:

      Maybe The New Drug CzaR…

      Will Speak The Truth About Marijuana