Archive for February 11, 2009

Gil Kerlikowske – New Drug Czar?

There have been reports that Gil Kerlikowske, the police chief of Seattle, will be the next drug czar. Other recent reports disagree. In either case, the new drug czar would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
So how does Kerlikowske size up?

Well, for one, he’s not Ethan Nadelmann. But that was a very far fetched goal from the start, and a statement more than anything else.

Not much has been reported regarding Kerlikowske. He has supported gun control, which does not relate directly to drug policy reform, but could at least serve as an indicator that he’s not your average cop. In addition, Seattle has some of the better marijuana policies in the country – some years back, the city deprioritized marijuana. (A caveat: in certain places, such as Santa Cruz, deprioritization has mostly symbolic meaning, as the police enforce the laws regardless – sometimes even more. I have not been able to find any information on whether or not the Seattle police department has been respecting this policy).

Still, I keep my expectations low for anybody who comes from a law enforcement background. I have not found any open statements on marijuana or other drugs, but he did oppose the 2003 measure to deprioritize marijuana in Seattle. Who knows if his policies might change if he begins to work at the national level (as, say, Kirsten Gillibrand’s positions have changed within the last few weeks).

Either way, we can’t expect Kerlikowske to make definite remarks before he is confirmed – especially if he is planning an overhaul of the DEA. Conclusion: This could potentially be a massive improvement over John Walters, or it could just be more of the same. (It could also be much worse, but my cautious optimism tells me that, under Obama, even stricter drug policies are not very likely. I hope.)

February 11, 2009 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment


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