Thursday, May 14, 2009

Does The Confirmation Of Gil Kerlikowske As Drug Czar Presage Decriminalization of Marijuana?


Last week when Gil Kerlikowske's name came before the Senate as head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar), everyone but crazy old coot Tom Coburn voted for him-- and Coburn votes no on everyone and everything; he's like someone's demented old one-eyed aunt in the attic muttering darkly to herself in her a squeaky rocking chair that's driving her increasingly insane. Well, Kerlikowske's got something that'll fix Coburn right up-- let the kook calm down with some pot.

Kerlikowske was with Seattle law enforcement for 36 years but in his first week on the new job he's already proposed something pretty startling-- and long overdue: an old to the war on drugs. It doesn't mean nasty old cranks like Coburn can start puffing up a storm... at least not yet. What it means is that the government will shift away from expensive and dysfunctional incarceration to more effective ways of reducing drug use-- emphasizing treatment, reducing demand and tackling the problems of interdiction at the borders.
The Obama administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice alone, with treatment's role growing relative to incarceration, Mr. Kerlikowske said.

Already, the administration has called for an end to the disparity in how crimes involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine are dealt with. Critics of the law say it unfairly targeted African-American communities, where crack is more prevalent.

The administration also said federal authorities would no longer raid medical-marijuana dispensaries in the 13 states where voters have made medical marijuana legal. Agents had previously done so under federal law, which doesn't provide for any exceptions to its marijuana prohibition.

And while Coburn voted against Kerlikowske because he felt he would be too permissive on marijuana use, more rational legislators-- especially Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) are saying it's time to decriminalize personal marijuana use. And 3 days before Kerlikowske was confirmed, Arnold Schwarzenegger was calling for an open debate on the country's-- or at least California's-- antiquated drug laws. He's asking legislators to look at the experiences other countries have had when decriminalizing (and taxing, probably his main motivation) marijuana. A week earlier we did just that-- via Glenn Greenwald and the results of decriminalization in Portugal, a huge success. Schwarzenegger pointed admiringly to a bill in the state Assembly by San Francisco progressive Democrat Tom Ammiano that would bring the state $1 billion a year by taxing pot at $50/ounce. Support for this approach is growing across the political spectrum.

Tuesday CBS ran an OpEd by Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance urging legalization which starts with the premise that marijuana should never have been criminalized in the first place.
Clearly marijuana prohibition is unique among American criminal laws. No other law is both enforced so widely and harshly yet deemed unnecessary by such a substantial portion of the populace. Police made roughly 800,000 arrests last year for possession of marijuana, typically tiny amounts. That’s almost the same number as are arrested each year for cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, Ecstasy and all other drugs. Meanwhile recent polls show that over 40% of Americans think that marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol; and it’s closer to 50% among Democrats, independents, adults under age 30, and voters in a growing number of western states... [W]hen all is said and done, the principal, and most principled, argument in favor of ending marijuana prohibition is this: whether or not I or anyone else consume marijuana should be none of the government’s business-so long as I’m not behind the wheel of a car or otherwise putting others at risk. It’s time to get the government off my property and out of both my pockets and my body when it comes to marijuana. Enough is enough.

On the other hand, if Schwarzenegger can't raise money by taxing pot, how about selling off the state's monuments? He's proposing selling San Quentin Prison and the Los Angeles Coliseum for starters. "With its stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, San Quentin has long been eyed for a more lucrative use." I wonder what "lucrative use" means. Something for rich people?

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At 12:21 PM, Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

So 'splain why the Obamanistas are deploying troops on the Mexican border?


This stance is clearly by the WODicks in Holder's DoJ, which is aggresively going after CA med-pot merchants...

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Lost a couple of words there:

This stance is clearly repudiated by the WODicks in Holder's DoJ, which is aggressively going after CA med-pot merchants...


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