The Hill: Does Obama’s Pick Signal ‘Change’ At The Drug Czar’s Office?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 12, 2009

    NORML, like most drug law reform organizations, waited with bated breath to learn who President Obama would nominate as the nation’s next Drug Czar. We now know that Obama has named former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske for this position, and that he has accepted the President’s nomination.

    Today, we join with many of our colleagues in expressing a cautious optimism that Mr. Kerlikowske will bring science and compassion to an office that, for far too long, has lacked either.

    Why are we optimistic? As I explain in today’s edition of The Hill‘s influential Congress blog:

    Does Obama’s Pick Signal ‘Change’ At The Drug Czar’s Office?

    via The Hill.com


    On the positive side, Kerlikowske hails from Seattle — a city that has elected to make the enforcement of 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. Consequently, there are now fewer marijuana-related arrests in Seattle than in virtually any other major city in the United States.

    At first glance, Kerlikowoske also appears to take a tolerant approach toward the medical use of marijuana. Since 1999, Washington state law has allowed for the possession, cultivation, and doctor supervised use of marijuana under state law. (Twelve additional U.S. States have similar laws.) Whereas Kerlikowske’s White House predecessor (John Walters) refused to even acknowledge that cannabis possessed even the slightest hint of therapeutic value, Seattle’s exiting police chief accepted the law and has made few, if any, efforts to undermine it.

    It’s also worth mentioning that Seattle is home to the annual Seattle Hempfest, a several hundred thousand person gathering in Seattle’s Myrtle Edwards Park. Organizers of the event have consistently praised the attitudes of the city’s police force for treating the event’s attendees with the utmost respect and tolerance.

    There are other reasons to believe that the nomination of Kerlikowske represents something more than just be politics as usual. NORML Board Members Dominic Holden, a Seattle native, and Norm Stamper — who served as Seattle Police Chief prior to Kerlikowske’s appointment in 2000 —  touch on many of these reasons here and here.

    Of course, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As I wrote in The Hill, “Kerlikowske is first and foremost a cop. 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.” Kerlikowske must also be approved by the members of the U.S. Senate, many of whom remain woefully unenlightened of the public’s demand for rational drug policies.

    So here’s your chance to tell them. As I’ve written before, The Hill is widely read by lawmakers and by the mainstream media. That’s why NORML is asking you to take time today to comment on my latest editorial. Tell Congress that it is high time America confirms a Drug Czar who will demand reason before rhetoric, and who will put the interests of people before prisons.

    President Barack Obama promised “change” inside the Beltway, and nowhere is change more sorely needed than in the Office of National Drug Control Policy. What changes would you like to see? Write The Hill and join the discussion.

    32 responses to “The Hill: Does Obama’s Pick Signal ‘Change’ At The Drug Czar’s Office?”

    1. I hope that we get the best Drug Czar that we can. If he is approved, I hope that he does a great job, but one can only have hope, but hope is a strong thing.

      Pot will be decriminalized before long.

    2. Elijah says:

      If everyone would please call and flood President Barack Obama’s own message line at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 and tell him we want him to REPEAL our Federal marijuana/hemp laws now, every day until our Federal Gov. Repeals all marijuana/hemp laws, then “We the people’s voices will be finally heard loud and clear! Copy this and pass it along! MAKE A DIFFERENCE! CALL

    3. Miguel says:

      Obama urged our people to follow Lincoln’s example today on his 200th birthday. Let us pray that he practices what he preaches.

      “Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”

      -Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) U.S. President.

      Speech, 18 Dec. 1840, to Illinois House of Representatives

    4. Well ya know the phelps case , if thats correct Is one Ive been looking for for twenty years Its roe vs wade all over and that where it should be in the surpeme court Suprise weed is legal Im paul jensen

    5. AK says:

      People we need to Gather together and go forth with the final excution of are plan to repel the laws

    6. Will says:

      I hope this guy can make a difference. At the very, very least, Obama did say that the raids on dispensaries will end. A baby step in the right direction is still a step.

      I also hope the results of the ad contest are up soon, I’m going crazy with anticipation!

    7. Just stumbled upon this place – awesome content – thanks!

    8. Gail McLean says:

      I am asking Gil Kerlikowske to do the honorable and courageous thing and call off the DEA. Stop the assault on American citizens by the federal government in states where cannabis has been legalized for medicinal and industrial use. Then work with our President to end cannabis prohibition all together. We need to be able to utilize this plant now for food, fuel and fiber, as well as remove the criminal penalties for recreational and medicinal use.Ending prohibition now frees this plant to be used to the fullest extent of it’s capabilities which are endless.

    9. richard souza says:

      We do not legislate,scuba diving,sking,raceing,roofing,or 1000s of other potential dangerous things.The goverment is protecting the incomes of criminals and foreign countrys,at the expense of our citezens rights to choice.

    10. Jeff says:

      Man Made Beer…
      God Made Pot…

      AlcohoL is Dangerous…
      Marijuana is Not…