kerlikowske.jpg
Let's not get carried away by talking about legalization
UPDATE: Kerlikowske's predecessor, Norm Stamper, criticizes "stupid and arrogant" leaders unwilling to consider medical marijuana. Details

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With AMA Annoucement, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske's Views on Pot Look Ever More Misguided

kerlikowske.jpg
Let's not get carried away by talking about legalization
UPDATE: Kerlikowske's predecessor, Norm Stamper, criticizes "stupid and arrogant" leaders unwilling to consider medical marijuana. Details after the jump.

Former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske appears to be ever more out of sync with progressive thinking on drug policy with this week's announcement by the American Medical Association 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 earlier this month (by medicine, apparently meaning 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 a couple weeks prior that his office would de-prioritize medical marijuana cases. Fair enough, Kerlikowske seemed to be saying, but don't get carried away by talking about legalization.

Kerlikowske has also taken aim at the broader drug legalization movement. At a conference last month of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, he cited a Washington Post op-ed by Law Enforcement against Prohibition (LEAP), a national pro-legalization group comprised of current and former law enforcement officials. "All of us in this room are far too familiar with the lost promise of a child and the spiraling tragedies resulting from addiction," he told the assembled police chiefs. Interestingly, that position puts him at odds with a prominent LEAP advisory board member: his predecessor, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper.

The liberal blogosphere has groaned. "Oh boy. Here we go again," wrote the Austin Chronicle's Jordan Smith after Kerlikowske's NPR interview. "So the War on Drugs has ended, huh?" He was referring to Kerlikowske's stated aversion to the phrase "War on Drugs" and advocacy for a more "balanced" approach that includes treatment.

That his views stop short of favoring legalization shouldn't be a surprise, though. He never gave any indication while police chief here that he favored it, no matter how much conservatives opined that the new drug czar from uber-liberal Seattle would be soft on drugs.

UPDATE: 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," he 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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