Drug Czar: War on Drugs ‘Analogy Really Limits Your Tools’

By Matt Loffman

Apr 1, 2010 1:49pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Gil Kerlikowske took over as director of the office of National Drug Control Policy a little less than a year ago with an unusual vow from the “drug czar”: to end the concept of a “war on drugs.” On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Kerlikowske said President Obama’s new drug control strategy — to be released in the coming weeks — will reflect that change in mindset. “It’s important to look at this not just as a criminal-justice problem or just a public-safety problem. This is really also a huge public-health problem,” said Kerlikowske, a former police chief in Seattle and Buffalo. As for the change in terminology, he said: “I think the most important part was one — besides the fact that it’s been around for 40 years and not a lot of people … cite it as a success — is that the war analogy really limits your tools. Essentially, in war, you have the tool of force. If we look at it as a public-safety and a public-health problem, we bring a lot more people into this.” Kerlikowske said the new health care law will help the federal government help people with substance abuse problems. “It’s a large pool of people that actually meet the diagnostic criteria for substance-abuse difficulties, but because they don’t have access to a health care professional, they don’t do it,” he said. “And when they don’t get the intervention or the treatment early later on, it doesn’t take as well, it costs more money. This has a lot of positives.” Kerlikowske declined to say how the federal government would react if California voters approve a referendum this fall legalizing marijuana. “The Controlled Substances Act is one that’s enforced by the federal government. Marijuana is a violation of that federal act,” he said. “But since it hasn’t passed right now there is — it would be improper to speculate on what the role is. But the federal government does and continues to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.” Asked whether the situation would be resolved by the courts, he said: “You can envision a lot of different things.” We also got Kerlikowske’s take on ongoing drug-related violence near the Mexican border, plus how his skills as a former police chief apply to his current post. Watch the “Top Line” segment with Gil Kerlikowske HERE. We also checked in with Politico’s Jonathan Martin about the president’s latest effort to sell his health care law, plus the continued (yes, continued) troubles swirling around RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Watch that portion of today’s program — and see some of one of the very few political April Fools’ efforts to actually be funny — HERE.

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