Drug czar discusses marijuana ‘On the Issues’

Photo by Xidan Zhang/ xidan.zhang@mu.edu

The debate over the war on drugs came to Eckstein Hall Wednesday when Gil Kerlikowske, the White House’s “drug czar,” sat down with Mike Gousha to talk “On the Issues” about the scope of the nation’s drug problem and the legalization of marijuana.

Before being appointed as director of national drug control policy by President Obama in 2009, Kerlikowske was police chief of Seattle. When he left that post, crime in the city reached its lowest point in forty years.

Kerlikowske began the conversation by saying the nation does not have a single drug problem, but rather multiple regional drug problems, with certain drugs used more in different parts of the country but almost unseen in others.

“To give you an example, methamphetamine is a significant problem in the Midwest and West,” Kerlikowske said. “(But it) is virtually unknown on the East Coast.”

Kerlikowske said prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in the country and that about 16,600 people have died in the past year from abuse.

The White House’s focus on regional issues, Kerlikowske said, has led to a large decrease in the country’s prison population, where about 50 percent of those incarcerated have a drug connection. He also attributed the decrease to the establishment of 2,600 drug courts across the country.

These drug courts, run by local justice systems, were established to help people who have been arrested for drug possession or use to recognize their problem and help put them on a path to recovery. Kerlikowske said the diagnosis and treatment of drug users is now the main focus in defining national drug policy.

“The war on drugs and legalization have made great bumper stickers, but right here in the middle we have a lot of things that work,” Kerlikowske said. “In the last decade we have learned more about drug prevention programs, and we know that drug prevention programs can work.”

After Gousha turned the conversation to the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado, Kerlikowske cited a report by the Rand Corporation that expressed doubts about the government’s ability to collect taxes on marijuana and the notion that legalization prevents violence, especially in Mexico. Kerlikowske went on to say he agreed with President Obama that marijuana should not be federally legalized.

“I think we’re in for a continuing, confusing time,” Kerlikowske said. “We don’t see any of the science and the facts supporting (legalization).”

Should marijuana be legalized, Kerlikowske said the drug should go through all FDA procedures, something he doubts will happen anytime soon.

“I don’t think there is a lot of initiative by the large pharmaceutical companies, because it’s very expensive to bring new products to market,” Kerlikowske said.

Because marijuana is labeled a Schedule 1 drug, it is not considered to have any medical value. There are only 200 researchers in the country who have a license to study the drug, and so far three derivatives of the drug have been brought to market, two of which can be prescribed in the U.S.

“The difference here is that none of these have the properties to get people high,” Kerlikowske said. “If you look at research in California, the sickest group of people there needing medical marijuana are 30-year-old white males, and I never actually saw them as being a particularly unhealthy group.”

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn also sat down toward the end of the conversation to answer questions, echoing much of what Kerlikowske said.

“We in the police have learned over the past 20 years that we are not at war with anybody,” Flynn said. “We in Milwaukee have adopted as our mission statement that in partnership with the community we need to develop neighborhoods capable of sustaining civic life.”

A person unaffiliated with Marquette who attended the event compared federal drug policy to the Prohibition era of the 1920s, saying drug-related crime was a side effect of marijuana not being legal.

“Everyone says how bad marijuana would be if it were legalized, but when are we going to realize prohibition is the problem and not the drug itself?” the attendant said. “People aren’t breaking into these houses because they are dope houses or drug houses. They’re breaking into these houses because they know the people (whose houses) they’re going to break into can’t call the police and say, ‘Hey, my drugs were stolen.’”

  • anarchyisnotabadword

    Kerlikowske, did your mother have any children that could tell the truth. Did you notice the article saying that after he left the Seattle PD crime dropped. Hmmm maybe his replacement wasn’t at war with the citizens of Seattle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clifford-Schaffer/1327146077 Clifford Schaffer

    Required reading for anyone who wants to offer an opinion:
    The short history of the marijuana laws at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/whiteb1.htm The laws were such lunacy that people laugh out loud when they read the story today.
    Licit and Illicit Drugs at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm The best overall review of the drug problem ever written. It has been used as a basic college textbook for decades. If you haven’t read it, then you simply don’t know the subject.
    The Drug Hang-Up at http://druglibrary.org/special/king/dhu/dhumenu.htm An excellent history of the subject that explains a lot of what is really behind the drug laws.
    Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding, the report of President Nixon’s US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/nc/ncmenu.htm This is the largest and most comprehensive study of the drug laws ever done.
    Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer This is a collection of the full text of every major government commission report on drugs from around the world over the last 100 years. In short, they all found that the marijuana laws were based on racism, ignorance, and nonsense. They all concluded that marijuana prohibition does more harm than good — no matter what you assume about the dangers of marijuana.
    You can tell the difference between the two sides on this issue just by reading the above materials. Legalizers have read it. Prohibitionists never read it. If you find someone in favor of prohibition, it is a sure bet that they have never laid eyes on the most basic research — and that includes every US Drug Czar since William Bennett.

  • Fr33dom

    “We in the police have learned over the past 20 years that we are not at war with anybody,” Flynn said.

    Complete horse manure!

    In 2011, 15% of all arrests in NYC were for marijuana possession. That’s more than the arrests for ALL VIOLENT CRIME COMBINED.

    In Chicago, 95% of all marijuana arrests and 98% of all marijuana convictions were people of color despite the fact that blacks and whites use drugs at equal rates. These racist statistics are repeated in every major city in the US.

    The bill of rights is really inconvenient for police. So why are we taking their public policy advice?

  • Fr33dom

    “drug abuse is an epidemic in the country and that about 16,600 people have died in the past year from abuse.”

    Divide 16,600 by the US population (300,000,000).
    0.005% have died from drugs!!!

    This is an epidemic that justifies shredding the bill of rights: i.e.the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th amendments?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clifford-Schaffer/1327146077 Clifford Schaffer

      Of course, those numbers don’t include 400,000 deaths from tobacco, or 100,000 from alcohol. Half a million deaths from those drugs does not warrant prohibition, but no deaths from marijuana does. There are a lot of rules that apply to marijuana, but nowhere else.

  • Fr33dom

    “Kerlikowske said [mrijuana] should go through all FDA procedures”

    BS! Does he also think aspirin, morphine, penicillin and choral hydrate should also pass FDA approval, because they have not! Cannabis was legal medicine for 100 years, and still would be if not for bureaucrats who prohibited it for economic gain despite the objections of the AMA.

    • Randall

      “Cannabis was legal medicine for 100 years”

      What? Cannabis was made illegal less than a hundred years ago in most places, it was completely legal before then and has definitely been used for thousands of years by humans.

      Marijuana will absolutely become legalized everywhere in the United States eventually, already being legal in two states with many others considering. Now is indeed the greatest time for our movement.

    • Randall

      “Cannabis was legal medicine for 100 years”

      What? Cannabis was made illegal less than a hundred years ago in most places, it was completely legal before then and has definitely been used for thousands of years by humans.

      Marijuana will absolutely become legalized everywhere in the United States eventually, already being legal in two states with many others considering. Now is indeed the greatest time for our movement.

  • HmmmSaysDavidHume

    Shame, by way of arrest, and then being run through the legal system, is CERTAIN to result in the same miserable recovery rates. 1 in 20 who enter a drug treatment program, whether voluntary or mandated at the threat of jail, remain drug-free for two years or longer. Insistence on abstinence instead of harm reduction for those addicted has resulted in abysmal long term recovery rates. And insistence on abstinence, when neural plasticity may have been permanently altered by disease, could very well be causing death, not preventing it. There’s a dirty secret in drug treatment that those who are abstinent for a time OFTEN relapse to a fatal degree.

    Any ethical prosecutor or judge enmeshed in these issues will tell you that the same people cycle through time and again, usually with escalating charges that lead to prison time. And like it or not, society stigmatizes those who end up in court and are forced into some treatment program whether they have addiction disease or not.

    This is a subtle attempt to get people to think that there’s an alternative to legalization that will solve he addiction disease. Kerlikowske and his ilk say ‘you can’t arrest your way out of this problem’, yet they advocate just that. Arrest someone on possession charges, run them through drug courts, and hold out jail and shame as the carrot to get them into a failed treatment plan whether they suffer from disease or not.

    The truth is this new strategy is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to maintain the status quo. The same status quo that enriches cartels. The same status quo that leaves users in shame for making a sovereign right decision on what they do with their own bodies and lives. The same status quo that results in no controls whatever for quality and safety. The same status quo where two-thirds of Federal funding goes for enforcement, rather than VOLUNTARY treatment, or monies spent looking for better, *scientific* methods of treatment for those who do become addicted. The same status quo that results in DEA and local police busting down doors with automatic weapons drawn, ski masks and all manner of terror applied to kid’s developing minds. The same status quo where everyone in the chain maintains their paychecks.

    Mr. Kerlikowske is on record stating he doesn’t see this as a human rights issue. That’s the central problem here. And it underscores, highlights, italicizes why this Prohibition MUST be dismantled. Perhaps Mr. Kerlikowske cannot see the death and suffering that is the end result of this. Perhaps he can, but will not admit to himself or anyone else that the cause is the Prohibition itself. I leave it to each individual to search their conscience. There are 40 years of outright lies and deception by our government. Should anyone confer credibility to someone who, in the face of societal rejection, only comes up with a subtle shift in rhetoric while at core advocating the status quo?

  • HmmmSaysDavidHume

    Shame, by way of arrest, and then being run through the legal system, is CERTAIN to result in the same miserable recovery rates. 1 in 20 who enter a drug treatment program, whether voluntary or mandated at the threat of jail, remain drug-free for two years or longer. Insistence on abstinence instead of harm reduction for those addicted has resulted in abysmal long term recovery rates. And insistence on abstinence, when neural plasticity may have been permanently altered by disease, could very well be causing death, not preventing it. There’s a dirty secret in drug treatment that those who are abstinent for a time OFTEN relapse to a fatal degree.

    Any ethical prosecutor or judge enmeshed in these issues will tell you that the same people cycle through time and again, usually with escalating charges that lead to prison time. And like it or not, society stigmatizes those who end up in court and are forced into some treatment program whether they have addiction disease or not.

    This is a subtle attempt to get people to think that there’s an alternative to legalization that will solve he addiction disease. Kerlikowske and his ilk say ‘you can’t arrest your way out of this problem’, yet they advocate just that. Arrest someone on possession charges, run them through drug courts, and hold out jail and shame as the carrot to get them into a failed treatment plan whether they suffer from disease or not.

    The truth is this new strategy is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to maintain the status quo. The same status quo that enriches cartels. The same status quo that leaves users in shame for making a sovereign right decision on what they do with their own bodies and lives. The same status quo that results in no controls whatever for quality and safety. The same status quo where two-thirds of Federal funding goes for enforcement, rather than VOLUNTARY treatment, or monies spent looking for better, *scientific* methods of treatment for those who do become addicted. The same status quo that results in DEA and local police busting down doors with automatic weapons drawn, ski masks and all manner of terror applied to kid’s developing minds. The same status quo where everyone in the chain maintains their paychecks.

    Mr. Kerlikowske is on record stating he doesn’t see this as a human rights issue. That’s the central problem here. And it underscores, highlights, italicizes why this Prohibition MUST be dismantled. Perhaps Mr. Kerlikowske cannot see the death and suffering that is the end result of this. Perhaps he can, but will not admit to himself or anyone else that the cause is the Prohibition itself. I leave it to each individual to search their conscience. There are 40 years of outright lies and deception by our government. Should anyone confer credibility to someone who, in the face of societal rejection, only comes up with a subtle shift in rhetoric while at core advocating the status quo?