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New Drug Czar Says "War on Drugs" Mentality is Over

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In his first interview since taking office, newly appointed drug czar Gil Kerlikowske had some very interesting things to say:

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs," a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation's drug issues.

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country." [WSJ]

Coulda fooled me. It's plainly ridiculous to suggest that we're not waging war as we arrest nearly a million Americans every year just for marijuana, as we kill innocent people and even harmless dogs in an endless parade of botched drug raids, and continue promising new crackdowns on American drug users.

Still, it's certainly encouraging to see that Kerlikowske is determined to separate himself from his predecessors. This is a bold and remarkable statement no matter how one interprets it. Any effort to pander to growing drug war opposition is encouraging, even if disingenuous. On that note, I think Ethan makes a good point:

Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports legalization of medical marijuana, said he is "cautiously optimistic" about Mr. Kerlikowske. "The analogy we have is this is like turning around an ocean liner," he said. "What's important is the damn thing is beginning to turn."

Stay tuned.
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war on a product

If it's a war on a product, then why are the people of this country the ones who are suffering. How can he even consider saying, "We're not at war with people in this country." What does he think the Edward Byrne Grant is for? What does he think SWAT teams across this country are doing? Are the drug task forces going after the drugs or the head count? Why are the prisons over crowed? The use of informants by law enforcement is not to get drugs, it's to arrest people!

Regardless of how you try to explain it, it very much is a war with the people in this country.


Editorial is too antagonistic

Scott buddy, I appreciate all the posts you make, and I can certainly appreciate and understand your frustration. I'm right there with you. Probably no single American policy fills me with as much frustration and anger as the war on drugs.

But I gotta take exception at your harsh tone towards the drug czar. This is fantastic news, and it's brave and bold thing for the drug czar to be saying so soon after his confirmation. This is probably the best news I have heard, in my lifetime, regarding the drug war.

First off, I believe you are misinterpreting Mr. Kerlikowske's message. If he is officially announcing that he wants to get away from a "war on drugs" mentality, he's is letting us know he finds this mentality harmful. When I read his comments, I took them as an explanation for the harm that the "war on drugs" mentality does. It creates a sensation of a war on a sector of out population. We don't want to be at war with the American people, therefore we will end the war on drugs. Perhaps it could have been better worded, but I think the message is overwhelmingly positive.

Think of it this way. What do you think would have happened if mr. K had said "look guys, the war on drugs is fucked up. For the last twenty years you have been victimizing and attacking the american population, and it's gotta stop.". Let me tell you BACKLASH. It probably would have done our movement more harm than good.

I just spent yesterday outlining an editorial on the war-on mentality, and why it's harmful to our society. I'm sorry I didn't get it written before his announcement, but I'll be overjoyed if it becomes obsolete. The drug war mentality has done enormous harm to our society. Not only in the immediately obvious ways: improper drug scheduling, misinformation, paranoia, propaganda, increased drug abuse, lack of treatement for addiction, etc etc, but also in the erosion of constitutional law and civil liberties, and more subtly, in the destruction of the American justice system. Not only the courts and the prisons, but especially the police force, which sees itself as a kind of soldier in the drug war. This totally fucked up attitude destroys community relations, kills people, kills trust in the police, and hampers proper law enforcement.

I know I harp on this a lot here in the comments, but I think it's vital that we create the impression of being a friendly, reasonable group of people. When someone makes a step in the right direction, let's not jump on him for not taking the whole leap. Rather, lets say "Excellent start".

So let me just say "hurrah mr. K!". Thank you for making that much needed announcement. This simple change in tone is an important and vital step to fixing our nations disastrous drug policies. Kudos.



I agree with you. I just don't want to get too excited until this talk translates into actual policy changes. The White House is sounding rather schizophrenic lately, what with Obama promising a crackdown on drug users "in our cities and towns" while the drug czar says there's no domestic drug war.

But yeah, I do believe we're headed in the right direction when the drug czar is talking this way. It rings kind of hollow right now, but these rhetorical shifts are a necessary milestone on the path towards reform. The fact that he opened with this line is indeed encouraging.

Stay Focused

Scott, I agree totally with your summary as written.

Changing the verbiage to be politically correct, putting lipstick on a pig, is meaningless unless there is action.

Saying they are going to stop DEA raids and following through on that, now that's action. But saying they are going to stop DEA raids, but then letting raids continue is BS.

The best I can tell Barack is about to be ripped in two. As has been pointed out, he's spoken numerous times about the failures of this drug war (or call it what they want), but he seems to have fallen in with the crowd of same-old same-old. I hear he tried to banish super powerful pain killing morphine, but then it was explained to him that it was used for people who were dying and could not swallow, could barely breathe, etc… and he changed his mind.

I guess one could say that it sounds like he's listening, but clearly the people he's primarily listening to are the people who have lived this lie for ages.

These prohibitionists are modern-day Senator McCarthy's and NEED TO BE PUT IN THEIR PLACE!

How many of you marijuana smokers out there need treatment for your marijuana consumption?

I saw nothing in that article about ending the black market and the violence, huge profits, and other ills associated with it.

With regard to the ocean liner analogy. To me this is just an excuse for sluggishness. Even Barack used that analogy. It may take a while for an ocean liner to physically change direction, but the captain in charge has long ago decided the direction to take, and made it known to those steering it.

In other words the captain says ~ "change direction from due south to due east" and granted it takes some time for that to happen. The captain does not say "turn a little to the east" then wait an hour and say again "turn a little bit more to the east" then wait an hour and say "turn a little bit more to the east" etc… He gives an order and expects his crew to follow it, his crew implements it pronto.

As far as I'm concerned the only "legitimate" analogy to an ocean liner is that we just can't open the prison doors and let out everyone who is in there and used drugs. Some people should have been let out yesterday. For some people in there, drug use was secondary to a murderous nature, and so forth. The only thing that harkens to an ocean liner changing course, in my mind, is letting out those who don't belong there and not letting out those who do belong there. Filtering all that through lawyers and the court system is going to be a challenge.

(Also time consuming will be coming up with a truthful curriculum and age-appropriate curriculum for teaching kids about drugs. But this is much less time consuming than involving the court system. So this is more like changing the direction of a yacht.)

Not changing the policy

They are simply changing the semantics.

This is right in keeping with all of the other lies we have seen out of the Obama Administration.

- No more medical pot busts? BULLSHIT!

- Needle exchange? BULLSHIT!

- Obama's campaign expression of compassion for the injustices imposed on the poor and minorities by high incarceration rates? BULLSHIT! More Byrne Grants and more COPS program funding means more arrests.

- No more drug war? BULLSHIT! Phony lying rhetoric.

Speaking of medica pot busts

I'd like to call everyone's attention to the narrative in the reader blogs about a bust in Pomona, CA

I'm not really sure how many of you who read these pages get to the reader blogs, but you really should check them out occasionally, if you don't already.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

You are dead on target


This administration is so two faced about everything to do with the drug war.

The real positive to come of this article is the admission that the "drug war" rhetoric is now a political negative for Democrats.

For this reason I think its more important than ever to associate Obama and drug warrior Democrats with the terms 'war on drugs' and 'drug warrior'. Whenever I can I include these terms in any writing that I do about the Drug warrior Obama Administration. They are trying to run from the words while escalating the policy. That is bullshit. As long as they support the policy they should be associated with the negative connotations that they in fact support.

Kerlikowske is a liar

The war on drugs is more aggressive and more militarized than ever. To say otherwise is not simply disingenuous but a that out LIE.

The drug war has fifty thousand Mexican military troops along with thousands of American forces doing support work on this side of the border. Plus tens of thousands of federal, state and local enforcement personnel on both sides of the border. There must be nearly a hundred thousand boots on the ground along the border yet still they can't control what comes across the border. The Obama plan is to escalated and militarize this situation even more in coming years.

The drug war has tens of thousands of American troops combing the poppy fields of Afghanistan hunting the Taliban who are funded by the drug war.

The Obama administrations budget requests for more drug war funds are in the billions of dollars this year alone.

The two faced Drug War of Obama

Why is this not a Story?

Mahmoud ElSohly is obviously seeing the writing on the wall of the end of his monopoly as Head Marijuana grower in the US. The problem that I see is that the mainstream media is picking up and running with this story with NO-NO opposition to his rhetoric. Hell, I can get 18% to 21% out of certian strains, where is the new news on this?

Gil Kerlikowske statement is already being taken up with the Prison Unions and Law Enforcement groups. Look at General Motors and you can see Obamas bend over and take it up the wazoo attitude toward unions.

David Borden and Scott Morgan, I hope that you have your Crash helmets on, because the preverbial shit is about to hit the fan. Lets' dispell the propoganda machine on every front, and let none of the mainstream media go unchallenged on this blatant disinformation.

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper and engage in the discussion, I did, and I live in the most scary place in the Union to express ones opinion.

Sixth comment:

Robert Hutton

When Joe Biden

announced the Kerlikowske nomination there were columnists and blog writers who pointed out then that there was a glaring omission. Both Biden and Kerlikowske evaded using the phrases "war on drugs" and 'drug war'.

So Joe Biden sees the negative connotations in the term but he does not comprehend the inspiration of that negative connotation. Or he, and by extension Obama, simply refuses to accept that it is the policy that is wrong. All that Biden sees is that the American perspective has turned negative on the phrase. What a dip shit.

Its not a war

Its a 'police action'.


Why does the sheriff that wanted to pursue Michael Phelps on marijuana charges have a military TANK in his arsenal if we are not at war with the people of America? SWAT teams. Drug "task forces." These are not "agents of compassion."
I like that the tide seems to be turning. But one has to wonder how much of it is just window dressing to make people feel like the war on drugs isn't as insidious and destructive as it is to Americans and the rest of the world. "Forcing" someone into rehab isn't the answer either. You just replace one bureaucracy with another. I'm liking this more than the Bush agenda, but Obama needs to stop spreading wishy-washy non-committal remarks and non-policies and actually outline an agenda and take a stand to actually change things as his campaign promised.

Same ol', same ol'

Remember when a 'surge' was an escalation? New words for an old game = semantics 101. Instead of 'drug czar' why not 'substance fool'.

Obama's Quagmire on the Rio Grande

The reported in a story New Drug Czar Calls for End of 'War on Drugs'

"Kerlikowske says the Obama administration will most likely treat drugs as a matter of public health, stepping away from the years of relying almost completely on the criminal justice system to treat the problem, incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Americans in the process."

Kerlikowske told Gary Fields with The Wall Street Journal, "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them".

Jive this with the March 15 Dallas Morning News report: It's no longer a 'war' on drugs, so to speak
WASHINGTON – Mexico is in the midst of a bloody drug war, fueled largely by America's appetite for narcotics. But this country is no longer engaged – semantically, at least – in a "war on drugs."

Vice President Joe Biden avoided the term when he introduced the new White House drug czar last week. So did the new drug czar. And President Barack Obama sidestepped the phrase even when I asked directly, at a reporters' round table, if this country is still fighting a war on drugs.
"Traditionally, the debate is either interdiction, criminalization, longer prison sentences for not only dealing but users – that's one approach," Obama said. "The other approach would be sort of a public health, decriminalization approach. My attitude is we do have to treat this as a public health problem, and we have to have significant law enforcement."

"The approach that we do need to take," he said, is "a both/and approach, as opposed to an either/or approach."

The Obama administration is simply playing a semantics game. They recognize the negative political connotations building around the drug war. And they do not want to be associated with the negative political connotations. But the drug warrior Obama administration fully intends to continue and even escalated the drug war.

This is quickly turning into Obama's quagmire on the Rio Grande. Its not a war its a 'police action'. Doesn't this sound familiar?

Same Game

Keep your eye on the ball, it's going to be the same game with different rules. If they were serious about ending the drug war, they wouldn't be playing the name game. Let's see action not words!

Only when the media picks up the ball will I believe the wind has changed.

Obama Ethically Depraved

It is morally and ethically depraved of the Obama Administration to see the negative connotations of the drug war clearly enough that they do not want to be associated with those negative political connotations but at the same time the administration continues working escalate and militarize that policy.

This is the kind of political duplicity and moral depravity that drove me out of the Democratic Party.


How about a War On Drug Warriors? Anybody? Yeah I thought so!

A war against anti drug warriors?

Hey that is a great idea. The power of all branches of the United States Military would quickly destroy the terrorists that run the war against drugs. Imagine all well trained military troops removing the D.E.A. terrorists from every location,every neighborhood. Requests are being flooded to the Pentagon to have this job worth doing get done, as many are in favor of the idea. Everyone knows the the terrorists that run the war against drugs are about to be destroyed by disgruntled military and their is nothing the terrorists or the global corporations that continue the fraud can do to stop them. terrorist petrochemiceutical corporations and their ilk are about to pay the ultimate price for their role in forcing wars against people and drugs.

don't fool yourselves the killing of innocent people will contin

murderous police in the united states will keep on killing old folks and children not to mention the minorities who they don't even keep a body count on.police are not about to stop as long as it is profitable for them and it is it guarantees overtime and a job that never ends .short of complete legalization we are being lied to again .and if Obama or the new drug czar even try they will kill him like they did kenney.i have heard this before during Vietnam when they said it wasn't a war but a police action.tell that to my dead friends who died there then explain this to the new murdered who will die at the hand of police during this new not a war against the American public .always aim for the chinstrap and save the last bullet for yourself .old Vietnam vet i have lived this before

Re: post of Robert Hutton "why is this not a story"

"high concentrations [of cannabis] have the opposite effect of small concentrations" claims a drug warrior in the article this post linked to. I don't have the slightest idea what this guy is talking about. Does anyone else? So, for example, high potency weed, instead of making you mellow makes you aggressive or reckless or uptight? I don't think so. What the heck is this guy trying to say? Nothing more than some more reefer madness agit-prop gearing up?
If they are concerned with kids using weed, fine, but no one is proposing legalizing their use of weed, and the current system is a big failure in keeping drugs away from kids.If they were really doing this for the kids, they would be willing to give up their own alcohol use, not expecting responsible adult cannabis users to do all the sacrificing while they party hardy with a dangerous drug that is not only legal but at the center of our culture, despite its record of causing catastrophes. Sorry alcohol lovers, but if you are free to use such a bloodsoaked drug, you can bloody well let other good folks use cannabis.

New Domain Name?

Maybe he's trying to get y'all to change your domain name! :-)

Let's see what they might suggest:

(Self-censored due to them being too biting and "antagonistic".)

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