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. oxbobend says:

      We leave out one big fact. The societal problems caused by illegal drug use are far less than the societal problems caused by the war on drugs. In addition the largest problem related to drugs in our society are the deaths caused by the legal use and illegal use of prescription drugs. But since that might make the pharmacutical companies look bad, we don’t talk about it. Deaths from marijuana use=0
      Deaths from prescription drugs=20,000/per yr. and climbing.

    2. adam says:

      the hard drug use has not declined because of the war on drugs. it is my personal beliefe that hard drug use synthesised drug use has declined because of the availability of marijuana. Marijuana is natural it has no harmful chemicals added to it it is not cooked or made it just grows and i think people are starting to relise the the plant matter wen smoked eaten or in any other way consumed gives them the euphoric responce they take the harmful drugs for with one difference marijuana wont kill you

    3. |||| |||| |||| says:

      what a load of crap!

    4. Anonymous says:

      Why is my crystal ball right only when I don’t want it to be.

    5. ConservativeChristian says:

      Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.
      Next step: How about $100 for a permit to grow a dozen plants? We can use the money for our schools, and it will put the drug gangs out of business for good!

    6. Ed says:

      I have an idea maybe we will just let them think it was THIER idea. I mean no one like to look the fool SO we can start saying that BECAUSE of the tierles work of the drug czar he has now delivered us (the US) into a new era of SENCABLE drug policy. YEAH for the government and the CzaR!!!!!

    7. The American Genesist says:

      *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.”

      This is so understandable! Look at the act(s) he had to follow. The guy has “always” favored Harm Reduction and science based realities [admired for that]- but – has never endorsed total legalization. Following him from Seattle – I personally defended him against early attacks in that area – and – I agree that hard drugs – illicit drugs – excluding cannabis – are truly a severe health issue. It’s just to bad that his job “mandated lying” to the American People. Well! lie he did – and – that makes him guilty.

      What I’m so over-joyed about is his position on “Scientific Conclusion.” Lord! how long have we Genesists been mandating that? Maybe his stance will finally reach the resistors and start a firestorm of public demand for Scientific Research and Scientific Conclusion…Lord – let’s hope so. We need to help move that objective forward. with zeal.

      On the other hand – is it just another piece of the over-all puzzle – to free natural THC, and put it in the hands of Big Pharma?

    8. Paul J Doke says:

      Dear Whomever,
      You cannot have it both ways—On the one hand we have the FDA extolling the virtues of exogenous cannabinoids in the packet inserts of Marinol Capsules, descibing the human endocannabinoid system & how well Marinol (a synthetically-produced THC molecule) treats digestive disorders in particular.
      On the other hand, we have the FDA blandly reasserting the utter lack of medical utility of the cannabis plant (with its naturally-produced THC molecule), with such a dangerous liability for abuse, that it must remain listed as a Schedule One controlled substance…Yet Marinol, with the very same THC molecule as the plant’s own, is listed as a Schedule Three controlled substance, with a low enough abuse profile, that it’s listed BELOW the Schedule Two list of addictive opiate medications.
      This is simply unacceptable national policy, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Cannabis-based THC should be listed as a schedule three substance just like Marinol, because THC is THC is THC, whether humans build it up atom by atom or the plant does, it makes no difference…other than the fact that genuine THC from the plant actually WORKS, as opposed to the near placebo effect of synthetic THC.
      Paul J. Doke

    9. Jeanne says:

      I can’t think of any reason to even have a drug czar,or any czar for this goverment,they are a waste of money. The War on Marihuana should be over, after 70 years and this goverment still knows nothing and the goverment still dosen’t get it.It is your fault that kids want to try it, you make such a big deal over its, no wonder kids want to try it.You think these kids are stupid ,making a big thing over marihuana is a joke and they laugh at that.
      When will this country learn. This czar crap started with that Bush jr, he is the one that needed all these czars for everything and this is what we are stuck with. I vote all czars out of office!!!!!

    10. Chuck Rogers says:

      Bullcrap on top of BS.Make our communities safe?Legalizing cannabis would allow more manpower and dollars to get rid of hard drugs which are the real menace.Common sense is sorely lacking and it is time the USA did something intelligent for it’s citizens.Spending dollars to keep hemp seeds out of bird seed isn’t one of them…duH!

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