Obama Administration's Drug Czar: R. Gil Kerlikowske

February 14, 2009

During the early speculation (my brief pre-take) the name of Jim Ramsted (TierneyLab take) was raised as possbile head of the Office of Drug Control Policy. Ramsted, a Republican Congressman had a record of opposing needle-exchange programs and medical marijuana. Now Obama has apparently settled on R. Gil Kerlikowske, the Seattle Chief of Police.

President Barack Obama has selected Seattle’s police chief to be the nation’s next drug czar, an administration official said Thursday.
Gil Kerlikowske will lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position that has in past administrations been a Cabinet-level post, according to an official who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.
The official did not know if the position would be a Cabinet post, but said its status would become clear when Kerlikowske was announced. The official did not know when the appointment would be announced.

Well, I certainly hope it continues to be a Cabinet level position. Beyond the obvious homer issues, Obama made it reasonably clear that he would take a position on drug use and drug abuse issues that differed from the past four Presidential administrations (yes, including Clinton). In addition it is obvious that if Obama is able to launch a massive reconsideration of health care policy in the US that parity for the mental and behavioral disorders will be on the table. So the authority of a Cabinet level position would help empower the ONDCP.
Unfortunately it is hard to get a bead on the politics. Obama didn’t talk about drug abuse issues all that much during the campaign. A great unknown is to what extent he will expend political effort on these issues. Keeping the ONDCP head at a Cabinet level would be an important indication that he plans to make things happen.
Drug Policy Alliance views Kerlikowske’s selection as a glass half-empty:

While we’re disappointed that President Obama has selected another law enforcement official instead of a major public health advocate, we’re cautiously optimistic that this nominee will support the president’s drug policy reform agenda.

TIME magazine has a big run-down here and the Seattle Post-Intellengencer piece is here.
The summary take seems to be that Chief Kerlikowske is a progressive police chief, even for a reasonably progressive city like Seattle. So much so that he’s at odds with his rank and file. Nevertheless, this is a police chief who officially made minor cannabis possession the “lowest priority”, supported needle exchanges and methadone treatment.
Most of this, from my perspective, is from memory and I seem to recall this guy being sort of …careful. Which you would expect, given his job. Lots of vocal support and progressive ideas, not really sure of the accomplishments. Right now teh Googles are dominated by the ONDCP story so I haven’t been able to run down hard evidence on his accomplishments. That’s my lazy blogger excuse, sue me.
Still memory is consistent with this summary:

Kerlikowske … has embraced harm reduction projects, including needle exchange, methadone vans, and drug courts, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Notably, under Kerlikowske, police have not engaged in raids or arrests of medi-pot patients or growers. (Washington enacted its medi-pot law in 1998.)
he initially did not support a city initiative making pot-law enforcement a lowest law enforcement priority, the chief has since embraced the measure, ordering officers to comply with its provisions.

Overall though, he seems like a guy who might listen to the science once in awhile. Just like Obama. So I’m optimistic.

No Responses Yet to “Obama Administration's Drug Czar: R. Gil Kerlikowske”

  1. I have heard from some associates in Seattle that Kerlikowske was trusted by the drug-using community as being genuinely committed to harm reduction.


  2. DuWayne Says:

    After this weekend, I will look into and post about Kerlikowske.
    Based on the little I’ve seen thus far though, we may well be moving in a solidly positive direction. Probably too much to expect, but maybe this will start us on a road to reasonable drug policy.


  3. asdh Says:

    Congrats on being included in the Top 50 Female Science Bloggers. You must be thrilled. #17 indeed. Your mother must be beaming with pride.


  4. DrugMonkey Says:

    Dunno that I’ll need to show Mom but I’m quite happy to be listed, why not? Anyone can make a mistake and this is quite a flattering one, did’ya see that list of teh bomb bloggers?


  5. JasonD Says:

    Advertising drugs to kids and teens, through DARE, is not right. That not only encourages them to “Try”, and “Investigate”, and “Experiment”… but when they realize the lies about marijuana, they assume the rest of the talk about drugs was also a lie, and they try those without fear. (By lies, I am talking about the out-of-context propaganda data, and twisted statistics also.)
    (Law enforcement against prohibition)
    It’s all smoke and mirrors. However, kids and teens like magic, they are not scared of it. Curiosity killed the cat, and we have to keep emptying the litter box until the cat dies.
    The drug problem can be stopped, as soon as we stop making it the problem. We place kids and teens into dealers hands, when we tell them that is the only place to get this mystery item, which they can’t have. They will have it, because they can’t.
    If it was perceived as medicine, and they were informed that their abuse is the reason why people who need it, are suffering, and can not have it… You would have better luck getting them not to abuse it. (Though, they may still try it, and tell you about it, if it was not illegal, and did not have to hide at the dealers house while they use it. You CAN fix what you SEE is a problem. You CAN’T fix what you can’t SEE. They are still doing it, just out of your sight.)


  6. DuWayne Says:

    I finally had a chance to actually write a post about
    here. While I am happier with Kerlikowske in the slot, than I would be a lot of folks, I ultimately would much rather see a public health expert in drug abuse in the slot.
    And I also think that he would be a hell of a pick to take over as head of the DEA. I think he would have a much better influence there, where he could fully focus their efforts on the new administration’s priorities. And his already close working relationship with AG Holder would be a huge bonus.


  7. AW Says:

    Yeah Right!!
    How do you guys feel now after his recent comments… It is so sad that we have come so far and now we will see it all just fade away….
    Better think with your head next time before you vote!!


  8. DuWayne Says:

    AW –
    Holy shit! That was more than a little bit of a one eighty and absolute bullshit. I appreciate you bringing this up – though I could have done with a little less snark. As soon as I have a little free time (way too many credits for a short summer semester), I will be posting a retraction of my previous support for Kerlikowske.
    For the record though, I absolutely did not vote for Obama. I was mildly hopeful, but am far too cynical to have been hoping for much. Good damned thing too, considering how much he has managed to disappoint me, even with my cynicism.


  9. DrugMonkey Says:

    Are you talking about the “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit” quote?


  10. DuWayne Says:

    I assumed he was, I certainly am…


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