Drug Czar Calls For End To “War On Drugs”

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.

  • Eric

    Oh boy, drugs for the masses ….. this isn’t about personal liberty Doug.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    What does that even mean ?

    Any small step away from drug prohibition is a victory for personal liberty and while I have my doubts that anything substantive will come out of this — other than the fact that the Obama Administration has apparently ended the practice of sending the DEA to raid medical marijuana clinics in states where they are legal — it’s worth noting one theless.

  • Eric

    Oh please, you think that the statist Obama Administration cares about individual liberty? I’m sure that some of them, at the very least, think that making narcotics more easily available is a good way to manage the population.

    Since when do the ends justify the means?

  • Eric

    I like to see things move forward, but I can’t stand and applaud anything coming out of the most statist administration this country has had since at least Johnson, and more likely since FDR. Endorsing anything from them is to become complicit in their desire to remake us into a very radically different culture and government.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    Oh Baloney, Eric!

    What if Obama were to announce massive reduction in spending and taxes? Would we condemn them just because he is a statist? The way you bring people to your side is you praise them when they do the right thing, even if their motives are suspect.

    in this case, though, I can assureyou that a desire for more drug consumption is not in the Obama administration’s agenda. Drug users don’t make productive workers and make it hard to make the quotas called for by the five-year plan.

  • Eric

    Tarran, anything Obama does is calculated to extend the power of the state. I have no intention of ever applauding anything he does. Unless he turns around and denounces everything he has previously stood for, fires his cabinet, makes it clear that Ayers is a left wing terrorist and then begins a new way of doing things. I’m sorry, I cannot get on board with supporting anything from this administration. It makes me complicit in their take over.

  • Eric

    I’m quite willing to admit that left wing radicals are far and away more prudish than anyone else. I’m surprised that Obama is doing anything of this nature, but I suspect it is about populist demagoguery …. the American public is opposed to prohibition, so loosen the strings slightly, let the loud whiners not whine so much ….

    On top of that, I suspect that our Dear Leader and his cronies understand the concepts Heinlein presented in several of his books (as did Pournelle) about the difference between citizens and taxpayers, and which ones need to be productive and happy and which just need to be content.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    anything Obama does is calculated to extend the power of the state.

    Much the same was true of his predecessor

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/21/who-is-eric/ Eric

    No, not really. His predecessor just stumbled from crisis to crisis with no philosophy or ideology or guiding principles. Although people call him a neo-con, he truly was not. Bush was an opportunist that got lucky. I suspect he actually believed all the bull he continually spouted about liberty and genuinely thought that he was doing things to advance the cause of liberty. That’s what happens when you don’t found everything in coherent first principles.

    Obama, on the other hand, has a coherent philosophy and set of first principles that is not liberty friendly and he has been executing against it from day 1.