“Legitimate Debate?” Not If The Drug Czar Has His Way

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 28, 2011

    Several weeks ago, President Obama stated that he believed the subject of drug legalization and regulation was “an entirely legitimate topic for debate.” Yet recent actions by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske imply that this administration has no interest in having this debate in the public arena — at least not in Seattle.

    On Friday, February 18, the Seattle Times editorial board opined in favor of House Bill 1550, which legalizes and regulates the “production, distribution, and sale” of marijuana to adults. (You can contact your state elected officials in support of the measure here.) The editorial, titled “The Washington Legislature should legalize marijuana” did not mince words.

    Marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed. The push to repeal federal prohibition should come from the states, and it should begin with the state of Washington.

    … Some drugs have such horrible effects on the human body that the costs of prohibition may be worth it. Not marijuana. This state’s experience with medical marijuana and Seattle’s tolerance policy suggest that with cannabis, legalization will work — and surprisingly well.

    Not only will it work, but it is coming.

    According to Seattle Times editorial page editor Ryan Blethen, the public’s reaction to the paper’s pot-friendly position was overwhelming.

    “It is rare we publish an editorial on a hot topic and receive near universal praise. But that is what happened last week when we came out in support of Washington state legalizing cannabis,” Bethen wrote in February 25 commentary. “When people take the time to e-mail or call me about an editorial, it is usually because they do not agree with the editorial page. This editorial was different. The compliments rolled in, the discussion in the comments section of the editorial is nearing 600 and is interesting and thoughtful — which is not always the case — and so far the editorial has been recommended by about 3,000 people on Facebook.”

    Yet there was is one prominent, former Seattle resident who is clearly not amused by the Times call for “a sober discussion about marijuana.” That person is the Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske.

    The Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger has the details — and they aren’t pretty.

    White House Requests Meeting with Seattle Times to Bully Against Pro-Pot Editorials
    via The Stranger

    The Stranger has learned that immediately after the Seattle Times ran an editorial last week supporting a bill to tax and regulate marijuana, the newspaper got a phone call from Washington, D.C. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske wanted to fly to Seattle to speak personally with the paper’s full editorial board.

    The meeting is scheduled for next Friday, an apparent attempt by the federal government to pressure the state’s largest newspaper to oppose marijuana legalization. Or at least turn down the volume on its new-found bullhorn to legalize pot.

    Bruce Ramsey, the Seattle Times editorial writer who wrote the unbylined piece, says the White House called right “right after our editorial ran, so I drew the obvious conclusion… he didn’t like our editorial.”

    … This isn’t the first time the Obama Administration has campaigned to keep pot illegal. Kerlikowske, who is also Seattle’s former police chief, also traveled to California last fall to campaign against Prop 19, a measure to decriminalize marijuana and authorize jurisdictions to tax and regulate it.

    NORML Has long argued that pot prohibition can not withstand careful and consistent scrutiny from the mainstream media. The Drug Czar knows this to be true better than anyone; hence the White House’s need to try and squelch any media-led ‘legitimate debate.’ Fortunately, the genie is out of the bottle and isn’t going back — at least not in Seattle. In fact, just days after The Drug Czar’s phone call, the Seattle Times reiterated their editorial support for legalization, stating “the costs of prohibition in police, courts, jails, gang warfare, civil liberties and blighted lives are too high, especially for a product that lends itself so well to be handled like alcohol.”

    Like it or not President Obama, you are going to get your debate. We’re ready; are you?

    112 responses to ““Legitimate Debate?” Not If The Drug Czar Has His Way”

    1. brianna says:

      A dollar a joint legalization project (google it or visit adaj.us)

      The monkey is out of the bottle man….

    2. todd says:

      why does he even exist? Hopefully the Seattle Times will not back down. WE NEED TO ABOLISH ALL THE CZAR’S. This is America. I have been nothing but disappointed by the Obama administration and I guess its just going to keep going that way.

    3. John Humphrey says:

      Gil Kerlikowske needs to take his head out of his ass and stop the waste of our tax money on marijuana proabition

    4. cat says:

      of course kerlikowski is opposed to legalization… i bet the makes over $100 grand a year… illegal = job security.

    5. Zack says:

      This is awesome, it’s time for change Obama.

    6. Pamela Smith says:

      It does not matter how long they try to continue to fight this, the fact is, there are so many people in our country that think it should be legalized,so this is not going to go away… ever….or until they legalize it. This will outlast anyone in office, and this will always be debatable. You people who have your alcohol, is one thing, but just think if they took that away from you, permanately, and dicussion was off the table. People think that alcohol is the Devil’s friend, and that could very well be true.Just ask any MADD. I personally think they need to go back to the days of prohibition, where alcohol is outlawed. Let’s see how many politicians could go without that….PERMANATELY!

    7. E says:

      We are not going away! It is that simple.

    8. Jeffery Haas says:

      I say it’s time every paper get in the face of Gil Kerlikowski and DEMAND to know what they think they are going to do if the pro-pot editorials DON’T STOP.

      Well Gil? What ARE you going to do, arrest the editor?
      Bring it on.

    9. Colton says:

      Glad to see some big media outlets finally coming out from under the curtains to support big changes. It’s no surprise that the Obama Administration would step in with their influence. It’s like the unspoken enforcement of the drinking age; mandated by states, not federal government, yet the feds pressure the states by threatening no funding if the 21+ ever gets lowered. At least with cannabis I hope the Federal government can keep at least some composure and let the people have what they vote for.

    10. jason says:

      so, this meeting is with the press – couldn’t they do something to ensure their meeting is “live” on national or at least local TV or on the internet?

      like “Surprise, Kerlikowske, we’re streaming our meeting! Now what did you want to talk about?”