Drug Czar Calls For End To “War On Drugs”by Doug Mataconis
It’s too early to tell if it’s a semantic change or a major step in the right direction, but these comments from President Obama’s “Drug Czar” are encouraging:
WASHINGTON — 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.
And the result of that has been that we have more people in prison than any other nation on Earth, with large numbers of them being there for actions that would not be crimes at all but-for the fact that some drugs are illegal.
While Kerlijowske’s statements do need to be backed up with actual changes in drug policy before I’ll take them seriously, at least one advocate of drug legalization is taking this as a good sign:
Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports legalization of medical marijuana, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about Mr. Kerlikowske. “The analogy we have is this is like turning around an ocean liner,” he said. “What’s important is the damn thing is beginning to turn.”
Let’s hope so.