Update!!! Update!!! Update!!!
Please tune in to NORML’s podcast tonight at 4:20pst when host Russ Belville will interview former Seattle Police Chief and NORML Advisory Board Member Norm Stamper regarding the selection of colleague Gil Kerlikowke as Drug Czar.
According to just published news reports, President Barack Obama has tapped Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske to be the nation’s next ‘Drug Czar.’
From Seattle’s top cop to ‘drug czar’
via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
[excerpt] Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has been appointed to a law enforcement post within the Obama administration, which would return him to Washington, D.C., after almost a decade as Seattle’s top cop, sources said Tuesday.
… Kerlikowske came to Seattle in 2000 after serving as deputy director in the Justice Department, overseeing the Community Oriented Policing Services grant program. A military veteran with 36 years in law enforcement, he spent four years as Buffalo’s police commissioner after starting his career in Florida.
On the positive side, Kerlikowske hails from Seattle — a city that has elected to make the enforcement marijuana crimes cops’ lowest priority. And although the police chief spoke out against the initiative effort — which passed with 58 percent of the vote in 2003 — he’s abided by the will of the people since then. As a result, there are now fewer marijuana-related arrests in Seattle than in virtually any other major city in the United States.
On the negative side, Kerlikowske is first and foremost a cop. He’s served 36 years in law enforcement, and it is foolish to assume that he will in any way embrace our issue with open arms. That said, I find myself in cautious agreement with NORML Board Member (and longtime Seattle resident) Dominic Holden, who believes that Kerlikowske may bring a “progressive” approach to an agency that has, almost since its inception, operated in the ‘Dark Ages.’
The day the U.S. government finally — and properly — recognizes that drug use is a public health problem and not solely a criminal justice issue will be the day that the President appoints a White House ‘Drug Czar’ who possesses a professional background in public health, addiction, and treatment rather than in law enforcement.
But until that day arrives, perhaps the best we reformers can hope for is a cop who appreciates that pot poses less of a danger to the public than alcohol, and who recognizes that from a practical and fiscal standpoint, targeting and arresting adults who engage in the responsible use of cannabis doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. At first glance, Obama’s pick — unlike his predecessor John Walters — appears to possess both of these common sense qualities.