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A Revealing Conversation with the Drug Czar

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In case you haven't seen it yet, the latest issue of The Nation is loaded with enough excellent drug policy coverage to keep you busy for hours. There's a heavy focus on the case for reform, but Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske also stops in for a long interview that I might find encouraging if we hadn't heard all of this stuff from him before.

"…merely trying to make arrests, make seizures, trying to incarcerate, is not a particularly smart way of addressing the drug problem."

"…understanding treatment can be effective and it's half the cost of incarceration."

"Arresting people for violations around drugs is not in many cases the smartest way to deal with the disease of addiction."

"We're a country that has a greater imprisonment rate than any other country in the world."

"…we can't arrest our way out of the problem."

"It'll take a while to not only convince ourselves that this isn't the best way to deal with the problem, but it will take longer to convince our foreign counterparts that we are being smarter about how we approach the drug problem."

Once again, we find the drug czar borrowing our talking points in a cynical attempt to feign sympathy for the increasingly popular idea that our drug policy is just a colossal disaster. As the war rages on, it's easy to dismiss such appeals to public frustration as nothing more than desperate and disingenuous pandering from an agency that's long struggled to maintain relevance. That's basically what we have here. But it's also an important milestone for our movement that the nation's official drug war cheerleader now believes he can enhance his credibility by presenting himself as a reformer.

But alas, this is the drug czar we're talking about, and no matter how hard he tries to change the tone, it's still just a matter of time before he slips up:

Well, you saw Bill Bennett, the first drug czar, supporting the drug policy this administration released. I've heard from former Attorney General Ed Meese, and others, that looking at this policy is smart. I've also been up on Capitol Hill, speaking with a number of incumbent members and staff members who see this policy as being a smart way to go after the drug problem.

He lost me at Bill Bennett. The endorsement of two notorious drug warriors and the U.S. Congress isn't at all what I'm looking for in a balanced and sensible drug policy. The fact that he would even go there is just such a perfect illustration of how the same twisted minds still exert forceful and perverse influence over our policymaking. Until the legacy of people like Bennett is firmly rejected and condemned, any discussion of taking things in a new direction is an obvious fraud.

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The Media needs to ask the right questions

Trish Regan's hour long report on CNBC, "Marijuana USA" was hardly an example of fair and balanced journalism as she interviewed the Drug Czar and never challenged any of his prohibitionists views or statements. She repeatedly resorted to the "Just looking to get high" accusation when interviewing people in the Medical Marijuana industry. And finally, the report never address the laundry list of failures associated with the Drug War or raised questions for law enforcement responsible for enforcing the drug war.

Until the mainstream media begins to ask tough questions regarding the government's prohibition approach to drug policy, Gil Kerlikowske can sit back and say, "Legalization isn't in our vocabulary" all day long without any consequences. With the influence of the ubiquitous "Partnership for a Drug-free America" on the broadcasters, there has been little progress in the journalistic arena of reporters questioning the false premise put out there by the drug warriors. Where there has been strides made is getting the voices of drug reformers on the air to debate the issue.

Prohibitionists Hold Drug Law Reform in Contempt

"It'll take a while to not only convince ourselves that this isn't the best way to deal with the problem, but it will take longer to convince our foreign counterparts that we are being smarter about how we approach the drug problem."—Gil Kerlikowske

Who’s convincing who?  Kerlikowske speaks for no one but himself.  He’s no leader for reform.  At most, Gil and his kind engage in a happy but incoherent stewardship over the present drug war crisis. 

The reason it’s taking ‘awhile’ to convince Americans that oppressions and tyrannies are not the best ways for dealing with recreational drugs is that people such as Gil Kerlikowske, the ONDCP and DEA continue to promote institutionalized lies about drugs while simultaneously advocating continued arrests and incarcerations for drug crimes.

Also, the United States will never convince enlightened foreign counterparts that the U.S. is being smart about drugs as long as the U.S. continues to show contempt for the Portuguese and Dutch models of drug regulation.


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