Well, some of the much vaunted and promised ‘change’ under a President Obama appears to be coming true in the formal nomination yesterday
of Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, and the mainstream media
certainly seems to be picking up on all of the positive and salient
points about Chief Kerlikowske that drug policy reform advocates have
been touting since his name was first floated almost a month ago.
Listen to the coverage of the announcement at National Public Radio.
Unlike the prior Drug Czar, John ‘Unicorn’ Walters, a moral crusader (aptly dubbed Bill Bennett’s ‘Mini-Me’ by the DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann),
Chief Kerlikowske crafted pragmatic public policies and law enforcement
practices that immediately distinguish him from his predecessors such
as Bennett, Gen. Barry McCaffrey and Walters.
--200,000 pro-reform cannabis law supporters converge on the waterfront in Seattle in mid-August for the world famous Hempfest,
where adults openly consume cannabis and the hundreds of police present
make few to no arrests (and where, ironically, alcohol use is strictly
--Local law enforcement in Seattle apparently does
not harass the artisans who craft and market the remarkable glass
paraphernalia (AKA, medical delivery devices) for which Seattle is
Compare that with Walters’ and former Attorney General Ashcroft’s
zealous pursuit and culture-smashing symbolism of arresting,
prosecuting and actually incarcerating NORML Advisory Board member Tommy Chong for nine months in a federal prison for the ‘crime’ of selling high-end artisan, Chong Bongs.
--Seattle police have a generally good track record
working with medical cannabis providers, physicians and
patients—including Chief Kerlikowske meeting with medical cannabis
stakeholders about how to best implement Washington State’s 2000
medical cannabis laws. Compare this with Walters and McCaffrey who
collectively spent 14 years insisting that there is no such thing at
all as medical cannabis (often comparing it to crack cocaine), patients
who claim efficacy or relief from cannabis as ‘fakers’, recommending
physicians as ‘kooks’ and the majority of citizens who’ve voted for
medical cannabis law reform as ‘easily duped by legalizers’.
--Rumor has it that Chief Kerlikowske has actually employed the term ‘harm reduction‘ in a sentence without employing foul language! In fact, under his leadership (and that of former Seattle Police Chief and NORML Advisory Board member Norm Stamper before
him) Seattle police both recognize and practice the increasingly
popular, European-inspired police/public health doctrine known as harm
reduction. Two of the important tenets of harm reduction are
concentrating police resources on so-called ‘hard’ drugs rather than
cannabis consumers and needle exchange to help prevent the spread of
infectious diseases–both championed by Chief Kerlikowske, and totally
dismissed as ‘tools for legalization’ by McCaffrey and Walters.
--Despite publicly opposing a reform effort in 2003
in Seattle to make adult cannabis possession a low law enforcement
priority, once I-75 was
passed by a majority of voters, Chief Kerlikowske shrugged off the
lost, embraced the public-health centric arguments advanced by reform
advocates, and met with law reformers in the Seattle-area like I-75
campaigner and NORML board member Dominic Holden, defense attorney and NORML Board member Jeff Steinborn, popular travel author/TV host and NORML advisory board member Rick Steves.
John Walters on the otherhand would not even appear in the same
green room with me backstage on TV news show, let alone debate live on
the same sound stage.
Looks to me like Chief Kerlikowske is a real man…not a moralistic, lie-to-beat-the-band bureaucrat.
--Chief Kerlikowske’s former colleagues on the
police force, cannabis law reform activists, medical patients, civil
rights lawyers and public health officials all seem to recognize that
science and ‘smart on crime’ (as compared to ‘tough on crime’ and
ineffective platitudes like ‘just say no’ or ‘drug-free America’) drive
his policing—not ideology and a twisted sense of personal morality.
With the recent report from
a pair of WA researchers affirming that the ONDCP under McCaffrey and
Walters obsessed too much on cannabis prohibition, and not enough on
meth, crack, heroin…a decided change in leadership at ONDCP can’t
happen fast enough.
Lastly, it was also announced yesterday by the 1980s congressional
author of the ONDCP charter, no less and with sweet karmic irony, Vice
President Joe Biden, that despite the best intentions of placing the
ONDCP into the President’s cabinet in 1988, from this point forward the
ONDCP is no longer going to be a cabinet-level office.
Whoa. Now that is change NORML and taxpayers can believe in!
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