Back in April, Nina Shapiro wrote about how former Seattle police chief turned Obama Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske wanted to chart a "new direction in drug policy." The only problem? Kerlikowske's new direction looked an awful lot like the old one. Despite the rhetoric, his office kept intact the same enforcement-to-treatment budgetary ratio that existed during the Bush administration. And now, with the defeat of Prop 19, the California initiative that would have legalized marijuana, Kerlikowske sounds like a man headed down a very familiar path.
Today, Californians recognized that legalizing marijuana will not make our citizens healthier, solve California's budget crisis, or reduce drug related violence in Mexico. The Obama administration has been clear in its opposition to marijuana legalization because research shows that marijuana use is associated with voluntary treatment admissions for addiction, fatal drugged driving accidents, mental illness and emergency room admissions.Many of Kerlikowske's claims are dubious. But more interesting is what the death of Prop 19 might mean for Washington.
This state's own attempt to get a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot ended in the spring, short thousands of signatures. A failure which organizers partially laid at the feet of the ACLU for its lack of support. But would that have made a difference?
Prop 19 not only had the support of the ACLU, it was also bankrolled by a medical marijuana multi-millionaire with money to burn. And it still couldn't pass.
It'd be fair for organizers to say we won't ever know for sure what might have happened had Washington voters been given the chance to legalize marijuana. But given the outcome in California, it seems likely that had they the opportunity, voters here would have delivered the same message as voters there: we're not ready yet.