Waiting to Inhale

Drug czar/ex-Seattleite Gil KerlikowskeÂ’s still a real prude when it comes to pot.

Former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske appears to be ever more out of sync with progressive thinking on drug policy, after the American Medical Association's recent announcement that it is asking the federal government to consider legalizing medical marijuana. Over the past few months, Kerlikowske, now the nation's drug czar, has repeatedly stated he is opposed to any such thing. "Using smoked marijuana as a way to administer some type of drug isn't something that is approved through medicine," Kerlikowske told NPR (by medicine, he apparently means medical science). He acknowledged that scientific research is looking at the medicinal uses of cannabis, but said that conclusive results are needed. His remarks sounded a note of caution in the aftermath of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that his office would de-emphasize medical-marijuana cases. But don't get carried away, says Kerlikowske. "Attorney General Holder issued very clear guidelines to U.S. attorneys about the appropriate use of Federal resources," he notes in a written statement. "He did not open the door to legalization." Furthermore, at a conference last month of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Kerlikowske cited a Washington Post op-ed by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a national pro-legalization group comprising current and former law-enforcement officials, punctuating his remarks by saying, "All of us in this room are far too familiar with the lost promise of a child and the spiraling tragedies resulting from addiction." Kerlikowske's position puts him at odds with a prominent LEAP advisory-board member: Norm Stamper, Kerlikowske's predecessor as Seattle Police Chief. In light of the AMA's announcement, Stamper asks: "Will our drug czar now find room in his lexicon, or time on his schedule, for a debate on medicinal cannabis?" "Better yet," Stamper continues, "let's have Gil sit down with a dying patient suffering from a wasting disease, facial melanoma, or other crippling pain. Let him talk with a person whose intolerance of opioids has made his or her life, what's left of it, a living hell. Until you've actually listened to the story of ailing people who've clearly benefited from smoking pot, you can't really appreciate how maddening and stupid and arrogant it is for our leaders to inform these patients that they're criminals if they seek relief from a naturally occurring weed."

 
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