Drug Czar Nominee Likely To Bring More Science

Drug Czar Nominee Likely To Bring More Science
Posted by CN Staff on March 12, 2009 at 06:41:00 PT
By Steve Miletich, Seattle Times Staff Reporter
Source: Seattle Times
Washington, D.C. -- When Seattle voters were considering a ballot measure in 2003 to make marijuana possession a low law-enforcement priority, President George W. Bush's drug czar flew across the country to condemn the proposal.Don't expect a similar "war on drugs" approach if Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske takes over the job after being nominated Wednesday by President Obama, say drug-reform advocates.
"That kind of blatant, partisan policy  I don't think so," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance.Kerlikowske also opposed the ballot measure, saying the Seattle Police Department (SPD) already put a low priority on marijuana possession for personal use. But his acceptance of the voters' will after the measure passed is seen by reform advocates as one indication of the way he has dealt with drug issues.If confirmed as head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by the U.S. Senate, the 59-year-old Kerlikowske is likely to bring a more intellectual, policy-oriented and scientific approach to the national drug debate, they say.Kerlikowske has declined to be interviewed during the confirmation process.Previously, he hasn't spoken frequently on drug issues as much as other topics, such as gun control. But he is widely expected to bring moderate and progressive positions to the job.He has balanced traditional law-enforcement efforts with support of drug-court programs that steer users into treatment to avoid criminal convictions. He also has displayed a tolerance for needle-exchange programs, medical-marijuana laws and Seattle's annual Hempfest, drug-reform advocates say.Hempfest's organizers issued a statement about Kerlikowske's nomination, saying they "have always found the SPD to be extremely professional and guided by the motivation to ensure the safety of the public over enforcement of Marijuana laws."In announcing Kerlikowske's nomination, Vice President Joseph Biden spoke of a three-pronged approach to drug abuse, weaving together law enforcement, prevention and treatment programs. Kerlikowske stressed during the announcement in Washington, D.C., that those efforts need to be "seamless."He also emphasized reducing demand for drugs, starting with young people."Our nation's drug problem is one of human suffering, and as a police officer but also in my own family I have experienced the effects that drugs can have on our youth, our families and our communities." That was a passing reference to his adult stepson, Jeffrey, who has a criminal record that includes arrests for marijuana possession and distribution and was released from prison in 2008 after serving time for battery.  A Focus on Mexico With his police background, Kerlikowske isn't likely to favor legalization of illegal drugs. Obama doesn't favor marijuana legalization.Nor is Kerlikowske likely to significantly urge pulling back the work of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to break up drug cartels nor efforts by local law enforcement to stem trafficking. In 2006, for example, he joined with the DEA in announcing a crackdown on Seattle's open-air drug markets for heroin and cocaine that resulted in 403 arrests.In fact, Biden said the drug czar will focus on the increasingly violent Mexican drug wars.But, as noted Wednesday by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Kerlikowske would bring an "important perspective" to drug czar."As a police chief, he is in a credible position to say that America's struggle to attack both the supply and demand side of drugs cannot be won by law enforcement alone," Satterberg said.Satterberg said the job will "take a balanced approach that includes more emphasis on drug treatment, both in the criminal-justice system and upon demand in the community. Then the resources of the federal government need to be aimed at securing the borders from major drug importers and keeping the violence of the Mexican drug trade out of our country."At the grass-roots level, Kerlikowske, during more than eight years as Seattle chief, has shown a willingness to "take a hard look at all kinds of alternatives to the traditional arrest, prosecution and jailing approach," said Alison Holcomb, drug-policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state.Those include three pilot projects that give Seattle police the option of not arresting low-level drug offenders and diverting them to social-service providers, Holcomb said. As a result, the offenders don't get stuck with a label, she said.  "Promising Choice" Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess, chair of the council's public-safety committee, noted Wednesday that Kerlikowske "led the police force by personal example, respecting and supporting innovative, yet practical, services for those struggling with addictions, such as our needle-exchange and methadone van programs, as well as the 1811 Eastlake housing project for chronic alcoholics."Traditional drug-enforcement methods aimed at first-time and casual users do not work. New approaches are needed. Chief Kerlikowske will lead this policy debate at the national level quite effectively," Burgess said.Lisa Daugaard, deputy director of the nonprofit defense law firm The Defender Association in Seattle and King County, said Kerlikowske represents a "promising choice."She would like him to go beyond public-health approaches and examine the "economic realities" that put drug dealers on street corners."I am hopeful the chief is interested in the answers to those questions," Daugaard said, listing education, job placement, housing and drug treatment as potential solutions.Known as a policy wonk, Kerlikowske displayed that sort of behavior when he traveled to Vancouver, B.C., in 2004 and visited a city-sponsored injection program for intravenous drug users. On his return, he wrote a thoughtful memo to his command staff about his observations, noting the benefits and drawbacks. He noted Vancouver's large-scale problems with intravenous drug use and overdoses weren't analogous to those in other cities but said it would be "worthwhile to continue to monitor the Vancouver drug experience." Interim Chief  Mayor Greg Nickels said Kerlikowske let him know early in the federal selection process that he was being considered.Nickels "made an attempt" to get him to stay, he said, but in the end was convinced that Kerlikowske wanted to serve in a policymaking position. "I think he's excited about this opportunity," Nickels said.Nickels said he will announce his choice for interim chief Monday. Deputy Police Chief John Diaz has emerged as a front-runner, a City Hall source said.Seattle Times news researcher David Turim, staff reporters Emily Heffter and Jennifer Sullivan and The Associated Press contributed to this story.Note: If Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske is confirmed as the nation's drug czar by the U.S. Senate, reform advocates say he is likely to bring a more intellectual, policy-oriented and scientific approach to the national drug debate.Source: Seattle Times (WA)Author:   Steve Miletich, Seattle Times Staff ReporterPublished:  March 12, 2009Copyright: 2009 The Seattle Times CompanyContact: opinion seatimes.comWebsite: Articles:Choice of Drug Czar Indicates Focus on Treatment House Nominates Kerlikowske as Drug Czar
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on March 12, 2009 at 13:04:22 PT
Just a Comment
On a CNN show with a newsman named Rick Sanchez they were showing comments about marijuana from people talking on Twitter. One person's comment made the both of us laugh. He said he would be able to get a job if marijuana was legalized.That's so honest and funny. That's all for now.
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Comment #4 posted by MarijuanaSavesLives on March 12, 2009 at 09:13:11 PT
We love Bruce
It had to be said!
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Comment #3 posted by HempWorld on March 12, 2009 at 08:11:49 PT
A load of bull ... as usual ...
If this country is so 'democratic' then why does it need a 'drug czar' ? Then why is the 'drug czar' not elected as in a real democracy? A drug czar has no place in any democracy. And now, our 'drug czar' is going to focus on Mexico? I did not know that Mexico was part of the US, but I guess they consider it so. Why doesn't the 'drug czar' focus on his own country first? It's all highly illogical, but, this is how it's been for over 70 years why should it be different now? When will we ever learn?
On a mission from God!
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Comment #2 posted by Treeanna on March 12, 2009 at 08:03:27 PT
 woot :)
Bruce is very suave.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 12, 2009 at 07:08:38 PT
For Those Who Missed Bruce Mirken on MSNBC
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