America’s Drug Czar: Programmed To Oppose Popular Drug Policy Reforms

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director June 8, 2011

    Predictably. Reflexively. Mandated by law.


    So the current U.S. drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske*, in true Pavlovian style, reacted negatively to the umpteenth commission report issued last week opining that 1) the war on some drugs has totally failed to achieve any of its stated goals, 2) policy reforms based on public health–not arrest and incarcerate–models are most effective, 3) the war on some drugs wastes preciously needed tax dollars, military expenditures, destabilize international borders and cause havoc in the banking and financial industries and 4) that legalization should readily be on the table, notably legalizing cannabis.

    As if a bell rang, the U.S. drug czar’s office dutifully rolled out a brief and defensive commentary published in The Hill (a virtually DC-only publication for inside-the- beltway-types) that touches upon the Obama administration’s only-slightly-different-from-previous-drug czars’-approach-to-maintaining-the-status quo…

    *Mr. Kerlikowske is likely going to be resigning soon as drug czar (which is understandable as it is one of the most thankless bureaucratic positions in Washington, D.C. as a job with a prescription for failure) to become the next police chief of Chicago

    Drug policies must be rooted in science
    By Gil Kerlikowske

    Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report calling for the decriminalization of illicit drugs based on the notion that global efforts to reduce drug use have been a failure. Certainly, given the stature of the Commission and the long-term challenge of drug policies both nationally and internationally, the Commission’s message may appear compelling at first. But there are serious flaws with both the report’s conclusion and its proposed remedy.

    We agree with the Commission that balanced drug control efforts are necessary, which is why this administration’s National Drug Control Policy is a marked departure from past strategies. We support diverting non-violent offenders into treatment instead of jail by encouraging alternatives to incarceration. And as a former police chief, I and my colleagues know that we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem. As I’ve often stated before, drug use should be addressed as a public health problem because we know drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Legalizing illicit drugs increase drug use and the need for drug treatment, while also making it more difficult to keep our communities healthy and safe.

    Our National Drug Control Strategy is science-based. And science shows that illegal drug use is associated with specialty treatment admissions, fatal drugged driving accidents, mental illness, and emergency room admissions. Illicit drug use has huge costs to our society, outside of just criminal justice costs.

    A recent report by the Department of Justice’s National Drug Intelligence Center about the economic impact of illicit drug use indicates that the costs of illicit drug use on health care and productivity alone, are over $80 billion. Making illicit drugs legal would not reduce any of these factors. Nor is drug use a victimless crime. Just last month, during a visit to the Pediatric Interim Care Center in Kent, Washington, I saw firsthand the tragic impact drug use has on newborn babies.

    In addition, despite the Commission’s assertions, efforts to reduce drug use over the last several decades have, in fact, achieved success. Overall drug use in the United States is half of what it was thirty years ago, cocaine production in Colombia has dropped by almost two-thirds, and the very same U.N. World Drug Report cited by the Commission concluded that, “Demand for cocaine in the U.S. has been in long-term decline.”

    This administration’s efforts to reduce drug use are not born out of a culture war or drug war mentality, but rather out of the recognition that drug use strains our economy, public health, and public safety. The President’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy – released one year ago – focuses on both the public health and public safety aspects of drug use and addiction. It focuses on addiction as a disease and on the importance of preventing drug use, as well as providing treatment to those who need it, including those who are involved in the criminal justice system. For the first time, it emphasizes support for millions of individuals who are in recovery from drug addiction.

    And the United States is not alone. Our international partners across the globe – including Mexico’s President Calderon, Colombia’s President Santos, and Costa Rica’s President Miranda – have all clearly stated their opposition to drug legalization.

    It is, of course, tempting to opt for seemingly easy answers to the world’s drug problems. They appear intractable at times. But we have made real progress and the steps we take in the future must be rooted in science and evidence-based policies that will make our communities healthier and safer.

    Gil Kerlikowske is the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    82 responses to “America’s Drug Czar: Programmed To Oppose Popular Drug Policy Reforms”

    1. john says:

      But we have made real progress and the steps we take in the future must be rooted in science and evidence-based policies that will make our communities healthier and safer.

      How much more science would they like before they legalize ?

    2. Yoshinaka says:

      It is very hypocritical when the normal citizen gets busted for pot and goes to jail for whatever amount of time and yet, a celebrity can get caught for the same amount in cocaine (a far more dangerous drug) and do no time at all. Grow up Washington.

    3. Patriot says:

      You morons supported Obama. Ron Paul would have pardoned and let out all the non-violent drug offenders out of prison.

    4. Mugen says:

      The quoted material is formatted incorrectly. Half of the commentary is visibly quoted as appropriate, but the second half is not, leading to the impression that it’s your own commentary following his, which leads to a very strange sort of cognitive dissonance until one realizes your mistake.

    5. THC_ALLIANCE says:

      “A recent report by the Department of Justice’s National Drug Intelligence Center about the economic impact of illicit drug use indicates that the costs of illicit drug use on health care and productivity alone, are over $80 billion. ”

      Anyone have any information on this alleged report? I would really like to see how they came up with that figure.

      Agreed, there is no question that SOME drugs cause major societal and individualistic problems.

      Cannabis however, is not being distinguished as a much different and much safer substance. We must urge this distinction. It is paramount for the movement.

      People need to also remember that the DEA’s opinion is merely just that, their opinion. When our opinion outweighs their opinion, who are they to hold more power in legislation than the voice of the people?

      SPEAK UP. End the Prohibition of the Cannabis plant!


    6. b.scot anderson says:

      it always amazes me that the government make the public health argument when defending their reasoning for not legalizing marijuana. The fact is the largest drain on on our health care come from a “legal weed” that has been proven to kill. cigarettes have been proven time and time again to cause some many different health problems, but yet they remain legal. Then we have the other legal drug alcohol. This legal drug causes many different health problems along with collateral damage in that drunks tend to drive and as we all know it is never the drunk driver that gets hurt or killed. The number one reason these things are not illegal is because they bring in more in tax dollars then they cost. It is hypocrisy at it’s highest level for the government to say they are doing this to protect us.

    7. John says:

      I typed out about 5 paragraphs before realizing it didn’t even matter, they’re not listening to us. I forgive ignorance, but with all the solid, SCIENCE BASED PROOF that is out there, this is just plain malicious, you can plainly see they’re full of shit, but backing down now seems dogmatic, almost as if they admit a mistake on this one thing and the entire universe will implode. The government is no deity, you’re not god, you’re allowed to take in new information and reform your opinions. But you won’t. Why would you? After all, you have the money, the power, and the position. All us lowly fucks have is truth and right.

    8. jh says:

      marijuana is not a drug! hard drugs are bad for the human body and the health system etc…but marijuana is not. marijuana is virtually non-toxic. it has anti tumor affects, anti inflamitory…etc….there are no deaths attributed to marijuana, people who go to the e-room for weed are idiots. legalize marijuana and take the money you save from ending that war and apply it to the war on real drugs like cocaine meth heroin bath salts etc…you know, the drugs that actually hurt people.

    9. Rebekah says:

      It sounds like the drugs Gil Kerlikowske is talking about in the last paragraph are a bit harder than marijuana. And has he even looked at the statistics that state drug use actually decreases when it is legalised, like in amsterdam?

    10. Quax Mercy says:

      “Our National Drug Control Strategy is science-based.”

      No, Mr. Drug Czar – our drug control strategies are rooted in superstition & xenophobia – fear and ignorance, same as it ever was. And a huge dollop of bureaucratic stalling, given that the mandated task is to prevent, in all ways possible, the discussion from moving forward. This situation holds, after 70+ years, because the office of drug control policy is legally prohibited from exploring research that might possibly reflect favorably on socially useful attributes of the proscribed drugs.

      IF our policies were science-based, we would be allowing the full range of researches, rather than preventing, obfuscating, harassing & bamboozling. If our policies were science-based, we would know more about the “association” between, say, MJ and onset of psychosis. We would understand and provide for the % of the population at risk, and would be aware of the genetic markers that signal this potential. If our drug policies were science-based, we would be farther along the path of understanding how the ratio of the various cannabinoids within the MJ flower impacts efficacy in relieving particular symptoms. If our policies were science based, the Know-Nothing Neanderthals in state legislatures across the country would be less comfortable imposing their ignorance as policy.

      If our drug policies were science-based, we would be realizing progress on our progress, instead of stuck inside a dialog that advances naught, niggling over nanograms.