Has Obama Made a Good Choice for Drug Czar?

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The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is reporting that Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske will likely be Obama’s nominee for director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly referred to as the drug czar. It appears that we may soon be faced with the most promising drug czar ever to occupy the position.

To be clear, Kerlikowske is not a friend of drug policy reform to any extent I’m aware of. What matters here is that I see no evidence that he is a vicious drug warrior of the sort commonly associated with the drug czar post. Given that ONDCP is mandated to oppose reform efforts and has typically embraced that role, a less confrontational and reefer madness-driven drug czar is really the best case scenario from a drug policy reform perspective.

Under Kerlikowske, Seattle has been a model for sensible marijuana policy, including the famous Seattle Hempfest at which the Seattle Police Department performs a public safety role while declining to make marijuana arrests. Following the passage of a 2004 lowest priority initiative, the city’s already-low rate of marijuana prosecutions fell even further, suggesting that Kerlikowske was responsive to the will of voters.

In that sense, he offers a dramatic departure from ONDCP’s shameful history of undermining state medical marijuana laws and inserting itself into state politics for the purpose of thwarting reform efforts. In an office typically run by military officials and political hacks, Kerlikowske would bring expertise in community policing and public relations.

As drug czar, I have no doubt that Gil Kerlikowske would oppose drug legalization and serve as our primary opponent on many issues. Nevertheless, at first glance, my gut instinct is that after several drug czars from hell, a guy from Seattle doesn’t sound so bad.

Update: I'd be remiss not to mention that Kerlikowske's immediate predecessor was Norm Stamper.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Front lines have shifted.

Good take I believe. Time will tell. Better than we've had, right on there. One thing I believe this does signal is that the front line on the drug war is about to shift and be set in a new place. Closer to our goal, I might add.

Yes, Kerlikowske (I learned Blagojevich so I'll do it again) might be the best we've had thus far and I do believe we should certainly give him credit where it is due, but this is war and we're not at our goal yet. We can graciously tip our hat to our opponent but then its back to the trenches once we know where they are now. But boy oh boy isn't great that the trenches are finally moving. Harping on Obama back in 2001 about Illinois' lack of mmj might've paid off.

My take on Kerlikowske

The Hunt for Gil Kerlikowske - Drug Czar (version with links.)
News reports that President Barack Obama has appointed Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy appear confirmed by sources in and around Seattle government. Kerlikowske has been chief of the Seattle Department since 2000. Coming there from a position in the Clinton Justice Department as deputy director in the Justice Department, overseeing the Community Oriented Policing Services grant program. A unit of the Justice Department that, I believe, was integral to helping the Clinton administration rack up a world record prison population.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer has this report on the nomination: From Seattle's top cop to 'drug czar' where, on the plus side, they report of Kerlikowske: "He leaves Seattle with the city's crime rate at a historical 40-year low, despite resurgences in youth and gang violence, especially in the city's South End. Kerlikowske has maintained a national profile, with his interests especially focused on issues such as gun control, immigration and electronic data mining of private records."

On the other side of the coin "In 2007, he came under fire from social justice groups who accused him of whitewashing an investigation into a controversial drug arrest downtown. The controversy prompted changes to the police oversight system as recommended by a blue-ribbon panel."

The most informative reporting about our new Drug Czar is a Seattle PI series that covers many aspects of police operations during the time Kerlikowske has run the Seattle Police Department ominously titled: The Strong Arm of the Law. A must read series for anyone who wants to see how police do business under Gil Kerlikowske's leadership.

While the most cogent and objective criticism of Kerlikowske comes from the blog, Injustice in Seattle
"Admittedly, Kerlikowske has had quite a bit of bad press in Seattle, especially over his handling of police misconduct issues and tendency for being lenient towards officers who have had sustained findings of misconduct as determined by internal investigations performed by the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability (SPD OPA)."
"As for his stance on drug law enforcement, he has taken stances against a referendum that made simple possession of marijuana the lowest priority for the law enforcement which passed by popular vote. Yet he has also indicated that he supports the notion that offering non-violent drug addicts treatment is a better alternative to incarceration."

Kerlikewske has a record for lobbying for more gun control laws and assault weapons bans. Personally, I would not mind seeing a global ban on the manufacture of assault weapons but that is my fantasy.

More realistically, I think that calls for gun control laws by law enforcement such as Gil Kerlikowske show a blind spot, an ignorance as to the real cause and effect relationship between the war on drugs and the proliferation of cheap and easy to get illegal hand guns. Cheap guns are so easily available on American streets because the massive black market for drugs, a black market created by the war on drugs economic prohibition policy, demands huge numbers of guns to empower and enforce market dominance by drug distributing gangsters. These gangsters need so many guns that the market for guns is effectively subsidized by their demand. And as long as the drug market self regulate with guns the gun market will be available to all would-be thugs who decide to escalate their criminality to deadly force.

The only way to reduce the demand for illegal hand guns on American streets is to regulate the criminal anarchy out of the distribution of drugs with responsible Harm Reduction based distribution of drugs. As long as criminals control the drug distribution they will self-regulate with guns and maintain a demand for cheap and easy to get guns. Get the users, abusers, addicts and gangsters out of the distribution and instead put responsible adult supervision in control of the drug markets.

When we end the current drug market subsidy of gun distribution that distribution will wither. Guns will become less available and more expensive. Less available and more expensive means harder to get for all petty thugs looking to go 'big time' with lethal force.

Kerlikowske could surprise us all and be the most civilized Drug Czar America has ever seen. It would not take much effort at all to be better than all previous Drug Czar's combined. But his record for giving in to excessive and racist police behavior, his career in the Clinton Justice Department and his backassward perspective on gun control do not bode well for giving us an enlightened Drug War policy from the Obama Administration.

Gun control?

So you are against a ban on drugs and in favor of a ban on guns? Hand guns aren't "assault weapons" and it sounds like you don't have a clue what you are talking about when it comes to guns.

gun control

...just cause handguns aren't "assault weapons" doesn't mean they aren't deadly and thus just as horrible of a thing as say an ak47

Gun Controle

So, you are for creating a new black market. Even more so than we already have?

So you would rather a government be able to have better firepower than its own citizens?

Control not Controle

That fact that you cannot spell Control correctly says something...

Learn to read for comprehension

If you would take the time to actually read the essay rather than simply triggering your angst off of individual words you would find that I consider gun control laws ineffectual and not the solution. The solution is not more gun regulation but rather to employ some drug market regulation.

You gun fanatics are your own worst enemies.

tell that to someone

who has been "assaulted" by a hand gun. I know, I know, you're talking about some legal definition, but really, what's the point of making arbitrary distinctions when, in the words blues master Robert Johnson:

"A thirty eight special boy, it do very well"

Point: what's the difference? a .38 will kill me just as well as and AK47, and maybe better since you can hide it in your coat? They're all assault weapons - matter of fact "assault weapon" is totally redundant.

You are not even trying

to make any sort of sense. Its just random words strung together in hopes of inciting an argument.

I don't come here to have pointless, and in your case, senseless arguments. I come here to share ideas for reforming the drug laws.

Yes, it is!

I like your comment about arguing! We are here to discuss the damage caused by, and solutions to, the failed drug war. These guys are getting off target! (no pun intended) They need to get over the disagreement and move on!

Weed won't kill someone

Guns, can kill someone. Weed, does not. It is a plant. Now, if you talk about what weed does to people, then McDonald's should be banned. After the movie "Super Size Me" came out, a guy made a movie "Super High Me." The exact same way "Super Size Me" was created and produced. At the end of the month, the man in "Super High Me" was in better shape in every category then the man in "Super Size Me." Alcohol does worse then weed does. More people get killed from Alcohol related accidents then from weed related accidents.

Guns, should has stricter ban laws.
Drugs, some drugs we need to rethink. When we hear drugs, we think immediately bad, however caffeine is a drug, no body second thinks that.


I hadn't seen your expansive contribution before posting my piece on my blog so I added an update link for your essay on my blog entry.


I wonder if he knows Norm Stamper of LEAP! I would say, very likely!

wonder how he feels about debating drug policy

guess we'll find out pretty soon if he gets the job.

aahpat, think I credit NRA approved policies with a bigger role in gun proliferation than you do. Not to minimize the role of prohibition created gangs, but policies like the gun show exemption, legal assault weapons, and letting gun manufacturers ship excessive quantities of guns to low regulation states, knowing full well the guns will wind up in high regulation states, policies like these must be having an effect too.

I addressed the issues

Relevant to the argument I was making.

If I have to add caveats for everyones arguments into every essay I write my points will be drowned in extraneous unrelated details. In writing it is called focus.

Personally, I think that America's $141-billion a year black market for drugs subsidizes more gun proliferation than lax gun laws BECAUSE the black market is the demand while the lax laws simply facilitate supplying that demand. Its economics. Lax laws would have no market demand to supply and enable if drugs were regulated.

Demand is more basic to a market than supply. The entire history of the war on drugs should have taught you that. Without demand the supply has no place to go.

Liberty is not an a la carte program

Good exchange on lax laws and econ by both of you.

However, I feel compelled to point out that the principles of individual liberty stand as one - you can't pick and choose. To the extent that you find a way to cauterize or amputate the 2nd amendment from the Bill of Rights (BoR), you've invented tools that will in turn be used against the the fourth, the fifth, etc.

The BoR stands or falls as one. In this sense, focusing your energy on lessening any right of the people is misguided. Instead, focus on reducing those drivers causing the right to be taken advantage of or used irresponsibly.

Specifically, yes, look at what is driving demand for criminal use of guns and address that. We would not dispute that the war on drugs encourages power struggles between loose organizations already on the wrong side of the law. Thus violence, thus guns. Peel back the onion.

wonder if you know what you are talking about

0.7% of guns used in crimes are acquired through the gun show loophole. 3% of assault weapons are used in gun murders. Low regulation states have the lowest murder and crime rates. The statistics are completely against your naive and baseless opinion. Vermont had 12 murders in 2007 total. Its also completely legal to buy a handgun, load it, and stick it in your pocket and walk down the street. No licensing, no bans, no restrictions. Guns don't cause crime. Gangs and drug dealers cause crime. For some reason you think its right to pick and choose what civil liberties people should get. Keep your hands off of my AR15 and Ill keep my hands off of your pot.

Read aahpat's entire

Read aahpat's entire argument and you will see that they aren't saying that we need stricter gun laws, they're saying that we need to eliminate prohibition. The main argument is that drugs are the life blood of the black market and if you legalize it, you remove their money to sell and create more guns.

Thank you

You understand.

I was beginning to wonder if I hadn't clearly articulated the point I was attempting to convey. I do get windy sometimes but I like to think that the points can get through.

Norm Stamper on NORML podcast

Norm Stamper is going to be on the NORML Daily Audio Stash today to talk about Kerlikowske. From all I've heard Kerlikowske seems to be an improvement on previous drug czars. He didn't flat out ignore the marijuana lowest enforcement priority initiative like police in other areas of the country have and doesn't seem to be an all out drug warrior. If anything it means he will be able to move in whatever direction Obama wants to go in regards to drug policy. On the other hand the position of Drug Czar is mostly about propaganda and having a slightly less "reefer madness" and slightly more reasonable person in that position could be a mixed blessing for the reform movement.

Time Will Tell

I have to say this is one of the few appointments by the Obama admin that I'm actually somewhat encouraged by. Although, time will certainly tell since we don't have a lot of information to go on at this point.

As already mentioned, the fact that his department seems to have respected the will of the voters on marijuana enforcement is encouraging. At the very least, it appears that Kerlikowske is probably not an insane ideologue like Walters. So that has to be seen as an improvement. I'd say it's more important now than ever to keep the pressure on the new admin in regards to Drug Policy related issues.


No matter who the Drug Czar might be, it does not detract from the ONDCP’s failure to achieve their bureaucratic goals. The goals of the program are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences. Considering our nation’s high use of illegal drugs and related crime, it seems apparent to me that this government bureaucracy has failed to achieve any of their goals.

The ONDCP is a federal program that needs to be eliminated. We cannot afford to budget scarce federal money into another failed governmental program. It is time to call an end to the ONDCP and the”DRUG CZAR.”




Everyone wants to have someone taking their side on the issues that matter to them. Kerlikowske is a cop with balls and brains. When he first arrived in Seattle he heard a call come in over the radio, pulled his gun and arrested an armed robber. Later on, when there were objections about taser usage, he was tasered for the local news media.

I think he's a great choice and fits the mold of an Obama appointee. An expert in his field, and ready to give advice and take direction from the president. He's had a long run here in Seattle, his successor won't last as long.

Pete at Drug WarRant

makes a cogent point about the mandate of the ONDCP. It is mandated to work against regulation. And as such the ONDCP is mandated to work against an alternative political concept to the one it defends.

Isn't that then a violation of our constitution? Government is not supposed to be using tax dollars to support one political perspective over another.

Where are the reform groups in challenging the ONDCP budget on constitutional grounds?

re : "wonder if you know what you're talking about"

I'd rather talk about prohibition than gun laws (and suspect Scott would rather read us talking about it) but I'll respond. I probably shouldn't have brought the subject up, it seriously divides drug law reformers.
You say "Low regulation states have the lowest murder and crime rates." Can you cite a source for this? Certainly southern states tend to have high violent crime rates AND to have low level of gun regulation.
I was making a different point though, that the manufacturers of guns deliberately ship large quantities of guns to low reg states knowing full well the guns are being bought to directly or indirectly be smuggled into states where they are intended for illegal possession. Some of the states flooded with illegal guns used in crimes including murders by this wanted to sue the gun manufacturers for circumventing their laws this way, but Congress, in the NRA's hip pocket, passed a law prohibiting the courts from considering it.
All I said was that things like the gun show exemption and legalizing assault weapons must be having an effect and your own statistics seem to confirm that. 3% of assault weapons being used in crimes isn't a small amount.

scrap the ondcp (propaganda-machine is un-American & Harmful)

ondcp uses our $$ to spread blatant propaganda and to undermine the U.S. Constitution (state medical Cannabis law are an appropriate exercise of the 10th Amendment).

and while most of us do understand the Federal Government can do whatever they please, it is unwise and un-American for the FEDS to undermine state laws and to undermine the practice of Medicine.

If President Obama doesn't have the sense and the courage to scrap the ONDCP now, can he and Joe get rid of the part of the ONDCP job description that mandates they spread lies? Maybe Vice President Joe B. could help reform this Frankenstein, since he helped to create it (to help Joe and other Dems look "tough on crime").

We should not be paying people shit loads of money to lie about vital medical topics because:

1) it is wrong

2) when medical facts regarding essentially non-toxic, potentially life-saving medications are deliberately distorted and withheld from the public, people are harmed and people die.

given fda-approved medications are a leading cause of death in the U.S., it is especially egregious the ondcp spreads lies about Cannabis, one of the least toxic substances known...

3) our country is in the shitter financially and cannot afford to be paying people money (many 6-figure salaries), unless the people provide a needed service (blocking access to Medical Cannabis and distorting medical and scientific information is not the type of service we're talking about).

4) only BAD people, without morals and values, would accept a job that mandates they lie about medical issues.

5. ONDCP failed to meet most, if not all, its stated objectives. Wrap it up and round-basket it. we need the money, esp. now.

Your post and aapat's above on same subject

I urge everyone reading this site to copy both posts then go to your congress members' official sites (with their "contact webforms") and paste both posts into those webforms. Let us inundate them with demands that ONDCP be disbanded. I have already done this for my "rep" and both senators.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Thanks for the compliment

People are always free to steal my writing. But I would recommend that folks do their own, more brief, versions if they intend sending them to congress. Brevity is the word when talking to politicians. They have short attention spans.

There are convenient links near the top of my blog Aid & comfort for finding your members of congress as well as for emailing President Obama. Better for reform, I believe, than going on about gun laws and the like is to contact your representatives in congress and the president to support H.R. 5842 & H.R. 5843. Both bills are in congress now. One would stop the federal government from attacking medical pot in states where it is legal, H.R. 5842. The other would decriminalize pot for personal use in the federal law. H.R. 5843.

With a groundswell of support for these laws the Obama administration would see that Americans want the kinds of change that he implied in his campaign.

One last thing. Faxes and phone calls impress politicians more than emails. It demonstrates greater intent and initiative.

H.R. 5842 & H.R. 5843 have expired

My reading indicates these bills expired when the 110th congress ended. Have the bills been reintroduced for the 111th session? My limited searches failed to find any reintroductions- anyone?

When I had the same question

a couple of weeks back I went to Barney Frank's congressional web page and looked at legislation that he sponsors and the two bills are listed there.

I just searched the 11th congress and you are right. The bills are not listed. Damn-it. Frank's official web page references the bills but does not say that the bills no longer exist.

Thanks to the correction.

There is nothing at all in the 111th congress relating to a marijuana search.

I just wrote to Masscann-NORML and asked if they could put a bug in Frank's ear to reintroduce the bills.

What a pisser. I thought I had something to work on the congress with for this year.

What is become more and more clear to me..

the fed govt IS a corporation
the most powerful one
they make their profit through extortion of hard working americans and productive businesses
the issue debt left and right to fund their expansion
they have monopolized the military so no one can do anything about it
does that pretty much sum it up?
now they are investing in banks and taking them over
the heist all began decades ago, with the creation of the Fed Reserve by prominent bankers
the only solution is for state govts to stick up to them
but now most of them are going bankrupt and begging the fed for money
throw out all notions that the fed govt represents "the people"
The federal corp is a leach that has become bloated sucking this country dry, and now there is hardly any blood left.

A perfect pick for friendly Obama!

I think, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, is a perfect pick for Drug Czar. Come on people, Obama has heard the people on pot legalization. He has many obstacles with righteous drug war supporters throughout the government, he can't say pot is now legal, from the man.

So Obama gives us a super cop from a pot friendly state, with medical marijuana recognition. This can be a halt on the raids I would think. With California and now Colorado seeking more progressive stance, we are seeing states switch to humanitarianism toward drug users. I see this nomination good news, indeed, for a step toward more humane laws. Obama seems to be a sympathizer.

Grow the Economy

I think that the only way we can see any ease from harrassment from the feds about marijuana and the end to the violations of our civil rights as peaceful marijuana users is by voting those old prohibitionists out of Congress and the Senate. We need fresher, younger, more realistic minds to be lawmakers. One drug Czar or President won't change things. The economy will keep slumping as long as the feds keep wasting our $$ fueling choppers to kill local crops and spend on all types of technology to spy on us in our homes when it is obvious that a farmer at home or in the bush isn't raping, killing, or stealing from anyone. These farmers contribute to the economy. By killing the local crops, they don't stop the demand. All they are doing is causing the country to lose more $$, because the money winds up going to Mexico, Panama, Columbia, etc. The feds are the cause for the economic collapse. Stop the importation and keep the money recirculating in the U.S. economy.
Hey silly federally: strengthen your economy, grow locally.


what the fuck does that even mean? Can you at least read what you write before you post it? That doesn't make any damn sense.

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