The Drug Czar's Lack of Vigor (and Rigor)

"People don't want to see someone jump in from Washington and tell them how to vote," drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said today while jumping in from Washington and telling Californians how to vote on Proposition 19. Kerlikowske, who visited a drug treatment center in Pasadena, told A.P. the Justice Department might take the advice of nine former DEA administrators and sue to overturn the pot legalization initiative if voters are foolish enough to ignore him. "The letter from the former DEA administrators, a number of whom are not only practicing attorneys but former state attorney generals, made it very clear that they felt that pre-emption was certainly applicable in this case," Kerlikowske said.

Not surprisingly, Kerlikowske did not cite any constitutional provision or case law that says California must ban what Congress bans or that states are obligated to punish whatever the federal government punishes. A.P. itself misleadingly frames the issue, saying Prop. 19 "would conflict with federal laws classifying marijuana as an illegal drug." There is not a conflict simply because a state chooses not to replicate the federal criminal code.

Speaking of conflicts, Kerlikowske noted Attorney General Eric Holder's promise to "vigorously enforce" marijuana prohibition in California whether or not Prop. 19 passes:

The attorney general made it clear the federal government will continue to enforce the marijuana laws under the Controlled Substances Act. It's a duty and responsibility of government, it's not something where they can say which laws they want to enforce and which they don't.

Yet Kerlikowske insisted that "vigorously enforc[ing] the CSA against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use," as Holder said he would do, will not require much in the way of law enforcement resources:

Kerlikowske...criticized claims by Proposition 19's supporters that the law would free up time and money law enforcement agencies now spend pursuing marijuana offenses.

"Law enforcement agencies are not spending an inordinate amount of time chasing adults around for small amounts of marijuana," he said. "Here in California, the jail resources, law enforcement resources, court resources are not being overburdened with adults going through the system" for personal pot possession.

For those who believe the government has no business dictating what grownups may put into their bodies, any amount of time spent enforcing marijuana prohibition is "inordinate." But Kerlikowske can't have it both ways. Either pot prohibition is not worth vigorous enforcement, in which case voters have to wonder whether it is justified at all, or it is important enough to merit the resources required to arrest a substantial percentage of those who violate it.

The other day I noted that the feds account for less than 1 percent of marijuana arrests, which suggests they would have a hard time picking up the slack if a state like California opted out of enforcing marijuana prohibition. Here is another relevant fact: All the marijuana arrests (about 858,000 in 2009) amount to maybe 3 percent of people who violate marijuana prohibition every year. (That's according to the federal government's survey data, which probably understate the number of marijuana users.) In other words, the government fails to catch marijuana offenders at least 97 percent of the time, and the feds are getting less than 0.03 percent of them. Is that what Holder calls "vigorous" enforcement?

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  • prolefeed||

    Is that what Holder considers "vigorous enforcement"?

    Don't give him ideas.

  • hmm||

    Alt Text contest...

  • Almanian||

    "Look at my collar! I have FOUR-STAR vigor!!!"

  • fish||

    WOW! Thats much better than 3-star vigor!

  • ||

    "I'm so ronery, so ronery! I'm so ronery and sadry arone!"

  • Almanian||

    ....winner....

  • ||

    I mean, look at the guy. He looks like a basset hound rescue dog.

  • tafurs delight||

    he looks like a cross between a sad Robert Forster & an anus...

  • ISI||

    i don't really know what the term 'hangdog' means but my first guess would be this guy's face.

  • hmm||

    in trouble or guilty look

    I think it's a southern term as that is the only place I have heard it.

  • ||

    Yeah, my first thought was some kind of Huckleberry Hound reference...

  • ola||

    at least his name is not kim, i mean, gil isn't much better. who are these drug warriors? gil, kim, barack, wasn't there an LA cop named gil?

  • prolefeed||

    "I'm so ronery, so ronery! I'm so ronery and sadry arone!"

    I believe the lyrics go, ""I'm so orny, so orny! I'm so orny, me ruv you long time!"

  • ||

    C'mon Reason, where's out Alt Text Contest feature? Complete with voting. Not that i'd be able to pick a winner amongst all the Alt-Gold the other commenters produce....

  • Paul||

  • fish||

    "Law enforcement agencies are not spending an inordinate amount of time chasing adults around for small amounts of marijuana," he said.

    No but they do do seem to spend an inordinate percentage of that small amount of time kicking in doors, terrorizing old ladies shooting people, dogs etc. only to find a baggie half full of ditch weed, stems, seeds etc.

    Cops don't want to stop enforcing pot laws because in most states the civil forfeiture aspects are to remunerative too walk away from.

    Vote as the nice man in the blue costume tells you citizen!

  • Almanian||

    but they do do seem to spend an inordinate percentage of that small amount of time terrorizing old ladies shooting people, dogs etc.

    ^^This^^

  • ||

    The people of California are really freaking out the LEO/drug warrior community by recognizing simple reality. Marijuana prohibition has completely failed by any measure, iIt is not a "dangerous" drug, the citizens smoke it with no regard to its illegal status, the money and effort expended on the almost comical efforts to turn the societal clack back to the '50s is completely wasted, innocent lives are ruined by prohibition, it fuels organized crime and official corruption and reefer is a pretty good, fairly benign buzz.

    Argue with those realities, dumbass.

  • ||

    ur rong!!!!


    ammiright guys?!

    huh?!

  • ||

    Aren't there some 10 000 pot heads in CA to have a massive smoke weed protest ?

    I don't believe the police will be able to round them up or even jail them up

  • Pip||

    I bet some of those pot heads in CA are just as gay as you are, Sams.

    Sams = Sucking A Male Schlong

  • tafurs delight||

    seems like a rather inordinate response to a rather innocuous comment...hey, Pip= Penis In Pooper, hur-duhr...

  • cynical||

    Yeah, well tafurs delight = ... you know what, fuck it.

  • tafurs delight||

    heh, exactly what i said to myself when i noticed i'd forgot to click on the 'don't bother remembering this dumb name' box...

  • hmm||

    or Surface to Air Missile Systems
    or School of Advanced Military Studies
    or Standard Army Maintenance System
    or Security Account Manager sss
    or...

  • David E. Gallaher/Ruthless||

    "But Kerlikowske can't have it both ways. Either pot prohibition is not worth vigorous enforcement"
    Drug warriors happen to be to marijuana as Libertarians are to government.
    Why can't all Reasonoids go all the way with me, a peaceful anarchist, and call ANY government too much government?

  • ||

    Uhhh....what?

  • ||

    i'm with ya...

    V

    which is probably why i don't come around here much...

  • roystgnr||

    Perhaps our problem is that we notice you're already living in an anarchy and yet you don't seem too happy about it. I'm being serious: The Anarchic Republic Of Roystgnr doesn't charge you taxes, doesn't have any victimless crimes, doesn't even have its own military or police force to protect you from real crimes... anarchy established, job done, no?

    I suspect you'd like to be protected from another, decidedly less anarchic government that has made more intrusive claims on your life, and certainly the Powerless Sovereign Roystgnr can't help you with that... but is there any other conceivable anarchy that can? If so then I'd like to hear about it. If not then you might as well call your desired politics a "power vacuum" instead.

  • ISI||

    Anyone else think of the loser salesman from the Simpson's when they hear about this guy?

    C'mon, Californians. Vote no on Prop 19 so ol' Gil can eat tonight.

  • ||

    Oh awesome, that's the best thing ever. I don't know why I never made that connection.

    "Ahhh, please you gotta help ol' Gil, whats it gonna take to keep you on the phone, I...dance for you? B-but you wouldn't even see it, y..a-alright, ha ha, I'm dancing!"

  • Zeb||

    I will now.

  • jasno||

  • ||

    "People don't want to see someone jump in from Washington and tell them how to vote," drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said today while jumping in from Washington and telling Californians how to vote on Proposition 19. Kerlikowske

    Hypocrisy? Nah. Clear delineation of hierarchy? That's more like it.

  • The Other Kevin||

    So he is going to continue to vigorously enforce laws that he is not currently enforcing vigorously. That's about as clear as mud.

  • ||

    The wrong doors will still get kicked in, property will still get rifled through, people will still get hogtied, dogs will still get shot...that's what I'm taking away from Gil's quote.

  • Bingo||

    If the Feds overstep their bounds and try to prevent CA from enacting this law it will probably cause the biggest constitutional shitstorm in a long time. I can hardly wait for November, it's so exciting!

  • The Other Kevin||

    This. It is great to see so many issues finally come up for serious discussion; i.e. spending, government overreach, and the drug war. And all at the same time!

  • ||

    That's why I'm praying for it to pass. This country needs some Cat 5 Constitutional shitstorms. Lets either have a true federal system of sovereign states and a limited national government, or quit pretending we do.

  • Paul||

    or quit pretending we do.

    Wish granted.

  • roystgnr||

    It might actually be a constitutional crisis we have a chance of winning, too. Not due to people suddenly growing principles, but due to fortuitous coincidences of timing and issue.

    Most conservatives lately have been chanting "Tea Party", "Tenth Amendment", "Small Government", etc., and while they use defense as an excuse to fulfill their real totalitarian fantasies, that doesn't really apply here. It might be hard to whiplash from telling people that the Feds have no business messing with your health to telling people that the Feds have to protect you from these unhealthy substances.

    And many liberals are so emotionally tied to "hands off my body" that they don't even notice when they have to repudiate their old rhetorical tricks to support it. I actually saw liberal commentators on another site the other day dogpiling against someone who brought up the "states' rights == slavery" nonsense, because of course Federal powers should be limited when the powers are being used in ways that we don't like! They'll shift right back on the next issue faster than you can say "hypocrite", but if this is the issue that makes precedent it'll be too late then.

  • Paul||

    Gil Kerlikowske: Not just Seattle's problem anymore.

  • ||

    This:

    It's a duty and responsibility of government, it's not something where they can say which laws they want to enforce and which they don't.

    Would have been an interesting thing for him to say when Obama released his press release about not enforcing pot laws against CA dispensaries.

    I know, I know, he kept enforcing those laws, but you know what I mean.

  • ||

    Debating marijuana legalization with a drug warrior is a lot like debating evolution with a creationist. In both cases command of the facts and logical reasoning are not important as you are trying to alter a world view built on unreasoning faith in authority. If you shoot down each argument for prohibition another objection is raised. After dismantling every single point, the true believer will return his first argument as if now it suddenly makes more sense. This can, in violation laws of thermodynamics, produce sound, fury and failed policy forever.

  • Rick ||

    My fear is that if this doesn't pass, then the Feds will actually get worse because they'll be encouraged by the "no" votes... "see, the people have spoken and they're on our side".

    If it doesn't pass, what are the chances of really challenging the drug warriors again in the near future? You might hear, "the people of CA have 'settled' this issue."

    A majority of U.S. public opinion has to be against the drug war and for ending it completely, not just ending marijuana prohibition. Once that happens, hopefully popular votes like this aren't necessary. Until then, good luck.

    As for this vote, I hope CA voters show some moral courage and intelligence and vote yes.

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