Newly confirmed drug czar Gil Kerlikowske sounds ready to start fixing the decades-long disaster known as the drug war:
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.”
Mr. Kerlikowske’s comments are a signal that the Obama administration is set to follow a more moderate — and likely more controversial — stance on the nation’s drug problems. Prior administrations talked about pushing treatment and reducing demand while continuing to focus primarily on a tough criminal-justice approach.
The Obama administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice alone, with treatment’s role growing relative to incarceration, Mr. Kerlikowske said.
I think Kerlikowske, the Obama Administration, and the traditional media are going to be surprised at how uncontroversial it is to take this stance. And not just here in Seattle, but across the country. People are sick and tired of this war and all the violence it causes. More and more Americans understand the relationship between the drug war and the unraveling of Mexico and recognize that what we’re dealing with is equivalent to what we dealt with during alcohol prohibition. You can tell how unpopular the drug war is becoming when news outlets have to resort to Stephen Baldwin to provide counterpoints against the reformers.