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An Embarrassing Interview With the Drug Czar

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Rolling Stone's June issue takes an in-depth look at the evolving political climate surrounding drug policy (a portion is available online), including a deliciously embarrassing visit with drug czar Gil Kerlikowske. Remember Kerlikowske's recent statement about not calling it a "war on drugs" anymore? Well, guess what he's got in his office:

…despite this sudden outbreak of sanity, rumors of the drug war's death are greatly exaggerated. Visitors to the drug czar's office in Washington – formally known as the Office of National Drug Control Policy – are greeted by the visage of Uncle Sam on a poster declaring, WE ARE AT WAR. ARE YOU DOING ALL YOU CAN?

You really couldn’t ask for a better exhibit in the total incoherence and rank dishonesty of the drug czar's claim that our drug policy isn’t a war. I don't blame him for trying and it's certainly encouraging that we've reached a point at which the drug war is so controversial that they're trying to change its name. But how could they possibly forget to take down the damn sign? I mean, really, did they forget that Rolling Stone was stopping by?

The story goes on to brilliantly juxtapose Kerlikowske's law-enforcement credentials against his comical inability to answer basic questions about the issues he works on:

Yet when faced with questions about national drug policy, he can turn as evasive as Sarah Palin without a teleprompter. Does the tripling of marijuana arrests since 1990 represent good policy? He'd like to look at the issue more closely. Would the feds respect the laws of states that vote to legalize marijuana consumption for adults? A great question, he says – but one he won’t venture to answer. Does the U.S. experience with Plan Columbia provide a template for dealing with the violent cartels in Mexico? He just doesn't know. "After three weeks, I'm still finding my way around the office," he says with a laugh.

The whole thing is a brutal embarrassment and a vivid illustration of the appalling intellectual bankruptcy that characterizes the government's position on drug policy in general. These are extremely basic policy questions, but they have serious implications. If you can't even begin to make informative statements about federal policy, then what right do you have to dismiss calls for reform? Is there even a shred of legitimacy to Kerlikowke's opposition to legalization if he can't even tell us what the current policy is supposed to be?

We spend billions of dollars and imprison millions of people in honor of this great anti-drug crusade and the people running the whole thing in Washington can’t even figure out what to call it, let alone give us a straight answer about why any of this is in the best interest of the nation. In fairness, Kerlikowske's reluctance to defend or even discuss drug policy is a product of the reform movement's success at politicizing the issue and his silence likely owes more to caution than bald ignorance. Still, one is generally considered to have won the debate when their opponent refuses to speak.

 At this point, I'd only be mildly surprised to see these guys just clam up entirely and announce that our drug policy can't be publicly discussed for national security reasons.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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...why did he accept a request for an interview?


Isn’t that part of a drug czar’s job?  Four to eight years of public humiliation, ending with a fat federal pension check and maybe a bogus job in some neo-con think tank?

I suppose the trick to being drug czar is the ability to crawl up one’s own ass and pretend the big bad world doesn’t exist.  Another might be possessing an aptitude for paying no attention to the consequences of one’s official actions.  Stir the shit-storm for awhile and walk away with unending bucks.  What a deal.

The drug czar’s job may be unique in that no one seriously expects the czar to succeed.  How can you go wrong?  Maybe a drug czar could win the drug war and really screw things up for a lot of people in the judicial industrial complex, but we know that can’t happen.  People will never give up harmless and effective euphoriants.  The drugs black market is inelastic.  Touché.  Drugs win.  Or, alternatively, the drug warriors win by conning enough people into trusting them as they chase an impossible goal.

Ending the drug war comes down to making a rational choice between who wins and who loses.  The feds don’t want to lose face.  Okay.  But given all the other government failures we've witnessed, what’s a failed drug war, anyway?  Another grain of sand added to endless, windswept dunes.


federal policy

It is the policy of our government to make as much money as possible on the drug war. So it only stands to reason that the famous Drug Czar will drag his feet for as long as possible.

Who wants to be the one to tell our, out of control law enforcement, that the party is over? What will happen to all those cops now employed as drug warriors. I'm not saying things aren't changing but there is no hurry on their side.

Give him a break! He just

Give him a break! He just got in. Just because he doesn't want to legalize marijuana tomorrow, you guys are up in arms. Chill out.

TonyD -- read the post again...

TonyD -- you missed the point of this well-written blog post. For all the reasons stated, he doesn't deserve a break. The guy is a liar and a manipulator who is playing politics with people lives and our tax dollars.

Scott Morgan -- you rule!!!

Malkavian's picture

It's a politician thing ...

It is ONLY in religion and politics that people make light of or even hold forth as an advantage their horrible, abysmal ignorance. These people are at the very top of the power ladder, and if they fart the wrong way people start dying. That's why we should ask for experts in those positions instead of ignorant, stupid people.

And we should definitely not make apologies for them.

Legalize it

if he lives on this planet he should want to legalize it. I wonder what road he would like to take - wipe the plant off the face of the Earth, maybe. Extinction for this species of plant? it's crazy. Twilight Zone stuff

legalize it. this is America's Berlin wall. time to bring it down.

Same Ole, same ole

The way out of this big brother crap from the feds is so simple. We all know its about the MONEY so the solution is easy.

Don't give them any money.

This means the IRS, [owned by the British Crown ] any circuit court, any large corporation.

Try not to use dollars. Trade at every turn possible.

Grow Cannabis and you will be surprised at how much you can purchase with the dried flowers of the female Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica plants.

Cut the gov. out of most of your transactions.

We can rid ourselves of these thieves, cut off their cash.

Its the only lingo they know or hear.

Help me punch them in the wallet and watch how fast they scatter.


Future historians reading about America will surly laugh at the stupidity and injustice of the great DRUG WARS 1960 thru ?. I know I am ashamed to be living in an era where I am forced to follow politicians who are drowning in their own ignorance.

15 days and still not perfect? Throw the bum out!

Gil Kerlikowske is not John P. Walters and he certainly is not William Bennet.

Did you move heaven and earth during the first 3 weeks of your current job? The Rolling Stone interview was full of cheap shots. Funny, but not really fair.

I suggest that the very fact that Mr. Kerlikowske was willing to speak with Rolling Stone signals a dramatic change in the perspective of the govenment and in the character of the individual occupying the key slot.

Let's give it a chance to work before declaring it more-of-the-same.

Re: not perfect

I didn't say this was more of the same. My point is that it's quite remarkable how unwilling/unable he is to answer basic questions about our drug policy. Today, the drug czar's website is bragging about all the marijuana busts in Florida, but he couldn't even tell Rolling Stone whether or not increased marijuana arrests are good policy?

This blog exists to challenge the war on drugs and its leaders. I will not sit around idly and wait to see what they do next month or next year. The drug war is raging as we speak and we will rage against it every day until it ends.

And I assure you, if Kerlikowske does anything good, you will find positive coverage here.

Healthcare You can Believe In

Yo! Obama,

We got to chat. Your Administration is jailing political prisoners. Charles Lynch provided medical marijuana to an underage cancer patient undergoing chemo therapy. With his parent’s permission the patient used the medical marijuana to help in regaining his appetite and relieve pain. The medical marijuana helped the young man. Mr. President, you smoked pot, you got the munchies—do I have to draw you a picture. Mr. Lynch will spend a year in jail, his life destroyed, a criminal. You must feel satisfied; Mr. Lynch received a fair trial, he could not bring up the facts: that medical marijuana in California was legal, and that he followed all of the guidelines set up by the state and the city of Morro Bay to comply with zoning, security and patient registration. This is what amounts to a fair trial in our U.S. District Courts? Really? I am not a politician, lawyer, or well connected lobbyist, just a plain citizen so please listen to the following; helping people who are really struggling, will make you feel really good, and get you more support, especially when you get involved. We need more attention than the smart ass response you gave at the online town hall meeting, it was too smart and too cute by half. You know which response I’m talking about. We got it, we heard. “No, legalizing (medical) marijuana will not solve the problems of the U. S. economy.” That was not what you were asked, but you got a giggle from your quick quip. The following stories are America, Mr. President, our country, our people trying to help its weakest amongst us, while creating a more perfect union. Have you heard?

People United for Medical Marijuana (, go and see the video) was founded by a young woman, Kim Russell of Central Florida, whose father’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease led her into a desperate search for the best treatments she could find to stem his demise. As only a daughter can do, Kim threw all her efforts into her quest. She was able to find and communicate with a researcher who reported positive results in studies that had been conducted with medical marijuana, but there would be some additional hurdles for Kim and her Dad that would have to be overcome first. Now, her young daughter gives her hugs as Kim manages and runs public advocacy for a statewide ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, evaluates fundraising activities, budgeting, and reviews medical information and studies for the group she founded to help patients like her dad. Kim wants what is best for her dad. Kim found that to do it, she would have to change a few laws and FDA regulations to make a solution for her beloved Dad. She does not back down. Would you settle for less than the best solution or treatment, for your kids or Michelle? We all feel a commitment to serve and love the ones closest to us, inspired at times by events or situations that thrust us into the world, to make real changes so that our family member can thrive or just survive. Sound familiar?

You must have your stones in a vise. That’s a phrase, “stones in a vise”, an old Vet shared with me as he lay dying trying to explain his own condition, frail and wasting away. No access to medical marijuana in Florida, but if he was lucky enough to be dying in Michigan, New Mexico or California where VA Physicians can recommend this course of treatment to restore appetite and thus life sustaining food he might have a better outcome. Tough shit soldier, the law and our inane rules matter more than his worn out, used up in battle, tired and dying ass. Care to go with me to a Vet Hospital and be introduced to a new generation of warriors, smart and brave who are not going to believe and stand by while the Government lies to them about medical marijuana not providing relief to over 48 mental/medical ailments and conditions. It is a shame they will come home from not one, but two wars and find Uncle Sam has revitalized a war on the people at home, the War on Drugs. Actually a war on patients and care-givers, isn’t the most despicable part of this, if you can overlook the fact that in many instances it is more cost effective and provides for a better outcome for the Veteran suffering from PTSD and in some cases Traumatic Brain Injury to forgo the mind numbing pharma solutions doled out. We know the Doctors have been brainwashed and in some cases paid off by big drug company’s to push the pills and belittle the use of a cheaper and better performing treatment (medical marijuana) that the patient/care-giver can grow in a garden for next to nothing. This situation is a mess. Your inaction, makes criminals out of men and women, young former active-duty and older reservist's, and Guard members who put their lives in the breach for something as altruistic as justice for all, so they can come home and get arrested for something you did yourself “of course I inhaled, that was the point”. I’m sure your career would have turned out different if you had been arrested. Funny, who or what has your stones in a vise that you can’t fix this injustice? Cash or compassion, Mr. President? I know you don’t want to upset the AMA and Big Pharma right now.

The elderly get caught up in this as well. Yeah, this is someone’s Grandma describing the relief she receives from medical marijuana. This video was shot by people who also care and are willing to step out and respond with action and a strong spirit in spite of overwhelming indifference on your part. What do you know about MS? Montel Williams can give you the lowdown on that. My Mama taught me that birds of a feather flock together. Don’t take my word for it, ask your fellow politico, Rhode Island State Representative Tom Slater, he has been diagnosed with cancer and is about to undergo chemo treatment. Imagine Tom Slater’s disgust as Rhode Island Governor Carcieri vetoed an act to provide a single dispensary, regulated by the state and off the streets, for medical marijuana for the 1000 currently enrolled Rhode Island patients and care-givers. As part of his reasoning for the veto, Governor Carcieri’s primary fear was that Grandma will be on a street corner reselling cannabis to kids, now unless that economy gig doesn’t get better, he may be right. Governors Pawlenty (who also vetoed a Compassionate Use act in Minnesota) and Carcieri are willing to let people suffer, because they think kids will have more access to marijuana? Really? Governor Carcieri hope you don’t feel bad when you get the override of your veto.

I can list more ailments and more of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms and dads to the list, but I think you get it, Mr. President. You need to do all that you can to ensure this situation gets resolved. Thank you for the chat, Mr. President.

"What does the Party say?"

Evidently Mr. Kerlikowske is determined to fit in with the Washington Bureaucratic Class; he's not about to make any statements until he hears 'his master's voice'. Kinda like the old Sovs waiting for word from Moscow on what the latest 'Party line' was.

Remember the first Clinton DrugCzar, Ron Brown? Not many do...for a good reason. Methinks Mr. Kerlikowske is seeking to avoid Mr. Brown's historic fate. So I don't expect any revelatory voltefaces as we saw in ther movie "Traffic". He'll be lucky if he's the very last DrugCzar, the way the economy is going. And I think he knows it.

Everyone, Relax

This guy knows what he is doing. He was police chief in Seattle. Perhaps he didn't answer because the reporter should have done a little more research on his positions. Let's have a look at what has happened in Seattle during his tenure as Chief of Police:

2003 - Seattle passes a law that makes Marijuana the lowest priority for Seattle Police. Gil Kerlikowske instructs his officers to abide by the law. Marijuana arrests plunge from 500 arrests annually in the mid-90's to 35 in 2005. I believe that I heard it was below 20 last year. Here is an article:

Seattle Hempfest - The largest Pro-Cannabis rally in the world. Held in a major park in downtown Seattle, on the waterfront. It is a free, organized festival with 3 stages of music and pro-hemp stands all over. The event pulled in 310,000 people last year over a two day weekend. The police have a strong presence. Marijuana usage is everywhere, and freely used in public. The number of arrests the last two years = zero. Check it out. It's pretty amazing, and only in Seattle:

So, that is just a little peak into the life that Gil Kerlikowske has lived during his tenure as Seattle Police Chief. I think that the RS reporter should have done a little more research and those questions would have been answered already.


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