De-Escalating The Drug War

  De-Escalating The Drug War

Posted by CN Staff on March 13, 2009 at 08:29:13 PT
By Silja J.A. Talvi 
Source: In These Times 

USA -- President Obama caught even close observers off-guard with his mid-February nomination for the nation’s new drug czar, R. Gil Kerlikowske.Kerlikowske, 59, Seattle’s police chief, with nearly 40 years in law enforcement behind his badge, will direct the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), pending Senate approval. But Kerlikowske isn’t just any urban police chief. He’s the top cop of a city with a progressive reputation on several drug-related matters, including needle-exchange programs and marijuana possession laws.
Kerlikowske has a reputation as a levelheaded and effective leader, having served as police chief in three other cities—Buffalo, N.Y., Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce, Fla.—all of which recorded decreases in serious and violent crime during his tenure.Although Kerlikowske’s opinions on drug policies reforms are still largely unknown, he differs from the last drug czar, John Walters, in many ways.For one, the police chief has not tried to interfere with Seattle’s needle-exchange programs. For another, Kerlikowske is on the record as someone who believes that safer, healthier communities require stricter gun controls; the restoration of voting rights to ex-prisoners (as well as re-entry programs); community-involved policing; and alternatives to sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders, especially in the form of drug courts.In his eight years in Seattle, Kerlikowske has shown interest in outreach programs in neighborhoods with high concentrations of drug users. In addition, under his tenure, local police have largely left alone Seattle’s medical marijuana users and providers, as well as the hundreds of thousands of attendees at Seattle’s annual Hempfest, the largest such event in the country.And in what could be the most controversial portion of his Senate confirmation, Kerlikowske let stand a directive that marijuana-related arrests should be the lowest priority for the Seattle Police Department, in accordance with a successful 2003 Seattle voter initiative, I-75.“He recognizes that we can’t arrest our way out of these problems,” says Alison Chinn Holcomb, drug policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington. “Seattle is a leader in exploring alternatives to reliance on criminal sanctions as the primary response to drug use and abuse, and Chief Kerlikowske has been someone that has allowed that exploration to go forward.”By contrast, while directing the ONDCP, Walters made it clear he wasn’t interested in considering alternatives to the status quo. “Whatever challenges await, President-elect Obama will not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to keeping a lid on the use of illegal drugs,” Walters wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Dec. 5. “Our policy has been a success—although that success is one of Washington’s best kept secrets.”But the National Academy on Public Administration (NAPA) disputes that assessment. In its recently released Senate-commissioned report, the nonpartisan coalition found that Walters and his predecessors consistently relied on questionable, single-source data and unscientific research in the ONDCP’s media campaigns.NAPA also reported that, under Walters, the ONDCP had a disproportionate number of GOP political appointees and people working supervisory roles. (Even potential interns were asked how they voted in the presidential elections during interviews, according to NAPA). If confirmed, Kerlikowske will inherit a poorly staffed office. (More than 25 percent of the ONDCP’s employees left in January.)Ethan Nadelmann, director of the national drug policy reform organization Drug Policy Alliance, says Kerlikowske is up to the task. “Kerlikowske isn’t going to be in this alone,” he says. “President Obama has made a very public commitment to certain reforms, including his support for federal funding of needle exchange and an end to the crack/powder cocaine disparity.”Attorney General Eric Holder, who worked with Kerlikowske from 1998 until 2000 at the Department of Justice, announced in late February that the Obama administration would not support continued Drug Enforcement Agency raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. “Where [Kerlikowske is] going to be stuck is what to do about Afghanistan and Mexico, among many other countries dealing with high levels of violence and drug trafficking,” Nadelmann says.Kerlikowske is also likely to stumble if he tries to address racial profiling, disproportionate incarceration or the police brutality that have been intrinsic to the drug war.Although his personal outreach to black community leaders has been noteworthy, some critics say Kerlikowske has done little to lessen the frequency of racial profiling and gang violence. In fact, in 2007, the Seattle NAACP called for his resignation, accusing Kerlikowske of covering up instances of racial profiling, false arrest and abuse at the hands of Seattle police officers.Since I-75 passed, the ACLU’s Holcomb says the number of whites arrested and referred for prosecution by the Seattle Police Department has dropped significantly, whereas African Americans have not fared as well. Black residents make up only 7.8 percent of Seattle’s population, but they were arrested for marijuana “incidents” at roughly 12 times the rate of non-Latino whites in 2006.Any optimism should be cautious and considered, Holcomb says: “This is the most hopeful nomination that we’ve seen in a long time, but that doesn’t mean that we should get too comfortable.” Silja J.A. Talvi, a senior editor at In These Times, is an investigative journalist and essayist with credits in many dozens of newspapers and magazines nationwide, including The Nation, Salon, Santa Fe Reporter, Utne, and the Christian Science Monitor.Note: Obama’s pick to head ONDCP is better than your average drug czar.Source: In These Times Magazine (US)Author: Silja J.A. TalviPublished: March 13, 2009Copyright: 2009 In These TimesContact: itt inthesetimes.comWebsite: Articles:New Drug Czar Brings Northwest Lessons Czar Nominee Likely To Bring More Science

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Comment #14 posted by Hope on March 14, 2009 at 08:57:43 PT
It's "Poison" to cancer cells.
It angered me when I heard him say that, too. I thought, "You liar. You bare faced liar.""Good guys", as they like to call themselves, can get up and lie like that?I don't call that "Good". No, not at all.
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Comment #13 posted by GeoChemist on March 14, 2009 at 08:44:33 PT
The first time I saw Pee make those comments I became irate and wanted to reach through the TV......take Pee's comment for what it's worth; anyone can say anything about anything they want, can he show what the poisons are? Can he point out the carcinogens? A good journalist would have asked about the poisons and a coached journalist did not ask the obvious; as Pee could not answer. Someone with something to prove needs UNBIASED proof and when that someone doesn't have the proof to prove, they resort to "because I'm the gavernment and say it's so". This issue just becomes more and more transparent with each passing day.
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Comment #12 posted by runruff on March 14, 2009 at 06:01:55 PT
John P. Walters is poison!
I saw him on Marijuana Inc. getting his Hooveresque photo-op. What a wet looking, sticky skin looking nerd!He called cannabis poison! John P. Gestapo has ordered more deaths in the name of cannabis prohibition in the last eight years than cannabis itself in it's entire history!I'll tell you what poison is! It is volatile by nature. It attacks the human body shutting down vital organs and eventually the mind. John P.'s policies have had this effect on many sick and dying bodies. John P. is poison!Bush appointed morons to office. This is a universal fact and we have the shambles to prove it! This man, J.P. Walters, had that thousand yard stare in his eyes. He has the look of someone who had his lunch money taken from him by bullies every day of his childhood! He is otherwise a helpless, ineffectual human being. He is a perfect useful idiot. The best I can hope for is that he will be around long enough to see how wrong he is [if he even believes his own lies or not] And that he will be the butt of much criticism in his life time. Me? Well I know very well what justice would be appropriate here, both for him and The Son of Bab's. According to, His Honor Judge Runruff, I sentence them both to a 100 year slumber party with Bubba!
Meals included!
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Comment #11 posted by runruff on March 14, 2009 at 05:32:22 PT
"Many trees produce useful saps
but we are yet to find one Bush sap that's worth a damn!"-runruff
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on March 13, 2009 at 20:12:02 PT
I saw on the news today that the Governor of Texas wants 1000 troops but so far Obama doesn't want to militarize the border. Heaven knows what will happen. It really is violent with all the murders. It reminds me of the violence in Iraq. 
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Comment #9 posted by Sam Adams on March 13, 2009 at 20:04:31 PT
But wait, if we take away 86% of the cartels operation, do we still get to militarize the border? There's a whole slew of defense contractors and federal employees just salivating over a new "front", we can't let them down
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on March 13, 2009 at 12:25:39 PT
I agree with you. Cannabis is the corner stone of the prohibitionist drug war. 
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Comment #7 posted by observer on March 13, 2009 at 12:20:47 PT
Jailing People for Cannabis is Drug War Linchpin
On the news it was mentioned that 86% of the drugs coming from Mexico is marijuana. They said eliminate marijuana and the war will wind down since not near as many people dabble in hard drugs. I'd love to see the whole drug war implode.FoM, This is true at so many levels of the USA's puritan drug war crusade. If we stop jailing people for growing, selling or taking cannabis, the rest of the so-called "war on drugs" isn't enough to justify the massive dollar expenditures at the local, state, and federal levels every fiscal year. So this is why savy prohibitionists know that cannabis must be confused and conflated with cocaine and heroin and meth. Because the minute US government prohibitionists stop lying about cannabis, the rest of their prohibition sandcastles and fiefdoms collapse. "If the lying stops, the system will collapse."
-- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
drug news bot
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on March 13, 2009 at 11:01:03 PT
Drug Law Reformer Optimistic About Obama
Wisconsin: Audio: Brian Moon Reports (MP3 :72)
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Comment #5 posted by dongenero on March 13, 2009 at 09:52:12 PT
(More than 25 percent of the ONDCP’s employees lef
Time to get off the teat of prohibition.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 13, 2009 at 09:39:45 PT
On the news it was mentioned that 86% of the drugs coming from Mexico is marijuana. They said eliminate marijuana and the war will wind down since not near as many people dabble in hard drugs. I'd love to see the whole drug war implode. 
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Comment #3 posted by runruff on March 13, 2009 at 09:17:51 PT
My karma ran over your dogma!
We were able to turn people against marihuana by pointing a racist finger at Mexican laborers and vilifying them and their behaviours. This was largely the way the prohibition of cannabis began.Now we send $billions across the boarder to enrich the lives of their children thanks to an idiotic policy we here call the War on Drugs!The black market has created a large and very dangerous army who do not like Americans.The karmic wheel turns 'round and 'round!
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 13, 2009 at 09:12:12 PT

I believe that finally we will see the separation of the herb marijuana from drugs like cocaine and heroin. 
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on March 13, 2009 at 09:02:27 PT

But seriously folks!
Gil says that the three pronged approach to drug control should be seamless.Cannabis prohibition is coming apart at the seams. Gil should find another metaphor
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