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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Obama's Drug Czar Refuses to Meet With Cops Seeking End to War on Drugs

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge No you didn't!
  • No you didn't!

In what way is Barack Obama similar to Richard Nixon (aside from ramping up someone else's foreign war)? Turns out common ground can also be found between Tricky Dick and BHO II when it comes to the drug war.

A few weeks ago we told you about California NORML unhappily celebrating the 100th anniversary of American marijuana prohibition. But it seems there is another milestone to "celebrate" in the War on Drugs: It was 40 years ago this week when the term "drug war" itself entered our zeitgeist. Following that, there was a steady parade of one million dope smokers, sniffers, and shooters entering our criminal justice system annually.

To mark the occasion, police officers who comprise the promarijuana legalization group -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition -- decided to pay a visit to one of their brethren: drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, the former Seattle police chief who is now head of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy.

It was Kerlikowske who two years ago declared the War on Drugs was over -- sorta. What he really wanted was a departure from the "war" analogy. But the problem with that is the tactics of the antidrug effort resemble a gun battle more than a public health struggle. So the LEAP crew tried to hand deliver to Kerlikowske a report released Tuesday, which takes the Obama Administration to task for "ramping up a drug war it claims it ended."

Kerlikowske was anything but receptive to his brothers in blue; he declined to see them, instead sending a staffer get the report.

The report holds Obama accountable for his drug-friendly public statements -- like declaring the War on Drugs a failure during the campaign, which has yet to turn into policy. Obama, like his two predecessors, "used illicit drugs and then went on to have [a] productive [life]," the report says. "In deed, if not in word, President Obama has presided over a drug war that has been waged at a rate virtually indistinguishable from that of his recent predecessors."

It was on June 17, 1971, that Nixon told Congress that "America's public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive."

This all-out offensive was ramped up in the 1980s, when Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign started. Since that campaign, which coincided with the crack epidemic, there has been a steady increase in cost and drug casualties, according to figures included in LEAP's report, titled: "Ending the Drug War: A Dream Deferred."

Hardened observers of the drug war won't find much new in the 20-page report -- though it's sometimes handy to be reminded that, ironically, drug-related killings in Mexico have increased 60 percent from 2009 to 2010. Yet they were essentially nonexistent in 2006, the same year Mexican President Felipe Calderón began his crackdown on the cartels, which now control drug markets in 230 American cities. That's notable because it's signed off on by a cadre of current and former narcotics officers, chiefs of police, prosecutors, and other former drug warriors.

Sometimes the messenger is everything.

And then again, sometimes it's not, as was the case Tuesday when these same cops were not allowed access to Kerlikowske.

"The fact that he refused to sit down with us and discuss these issues speaks volumes about how much the Obama Administration would rather ignore the failed War on Drugs than do anything to actually address it," says Neil Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics cop who now serves as LEAP's executive director.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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