Gil Kerlikowske and Obama – Their War on Drugs!
It appears as if Gil Kerlikowske, Seattle police chief, will be taking the job of drug czar for the Obama administration. Kerlikoske has a reputation of being soft on misconduct issues within the department. As the son of a cop, I understand the absolute loyalty required for a police force so I won’t fault him for giving the benefit of the doubt to the officers. He also has a reputation for being progressive with drug policy. In a bold move, he made marijuana possession the “lowest priority” for the Seattle Police Department. As it turns out, crime dropped. You can file that under “Mel Brooks is Jewish” or “Oprah’s weight fluctuates”.
By comparison, Kerlikowske in the role of drug czar looks progressive, especially given the move he made in Seattle. This is concerning for a few reasons. The first is that the office of drug czar has been held by the likes of Barry McCaffrey, an army general. His very presence sent the message that the War on Drugs could be led, and won, by paramilitary force. McCaffrey was a short, angry little man who by his own admission made no impact on the availability of cocaine on the streets of US cities. During McCaffrey’s tenure in office, the DEA employed Blackhawk helicopters to defoliate coca fields in Columbia as part of “Plan Columbia” which was a “humanitarian” aid package of 3 billion dollars to the Columbian government. What happened? Schoolyards, along with coca fields were defoliated by a technological marvel when a single prop crop duster would have done the same job. As an added bonus, teenage boys in both Columbia and US cities were shot, shot by real guns with real bullets but still the disco dust fell and anyone who wanted to get high with cocaine did. Solid work general!
So here we are with an administration being built on Change. Clearly an African American man in the White House, who purpose there is not to pour tea, is a much needed and welcomed change…. but will that revolution translate to the drug policy? While Kerlikowske is a “change” it is a half measure, a “sort of change”, “change-lite”. Real change would be naming a health care provider to the post, or a doctor with specific training in addiction. This change is throwing a bone and not a very meaty bone at that. Yes, Kerlikowske has a reputation and record of being “hemp friendly” but consider the population he presides over. Seattle! Home of grunge and “Hemp fest”. It’s a close neighbor to Vancouver, the Amsterdam of North America. Was he really so progressive or did he just have the insight to understand that he simply cannot control a population who uses cannabis as their chosen intoxicant? I don’t know the answer but if he agrees to meet with me, I’ll ask him. Kerlikoske is a law enforcement official. His knowledge, values, and skills are that of a cop. The problem with that is the fact that “policing” addicts doesn’t help them and so we are still living in a culture where chemical abuse, a mental health issue, is being handled by law enforcement. Change? Perhaps. Maybe “giving in” to the hippie population of Seattle won’t go over on a national level. There’s a possibility that I am way off base and the office will take a baby step toward decriminalizing marijuana. We could even experience a grass roots movement by marijuana users themselves to implement change, although it’s highly unlikely considering their ambition and work ethic. So, maybe America will move toward more honesty and recognize that people like getting high, which they do in a variety of ways and they will continue to do no matter who holds the office of drug czar. Personally, I can’t stand the smell of pot, nor the dirty hacky sack culture that often goes with it but I support the right to choose your own method of intoxication regardless of what the DEA says.