Drug Policy

Drug Czar Calls for End to War on Drugs


Unfortunately, it's the name he doesn't like, not the policy. Gil Kerlikowske, the former Seattle police chief who now heads the Office of National Drug Control Policy, tells The Wall Street Journal:

Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a "war on drugs" or a "war on a product," people see a war as a war on them. We're not at war with people in this country.

According to the Journal, "Mr. Kerlikowske's comments are a signal that the Obama administration is set to follow a more moderate—and likely more controversial—stance on the nation's drug problems….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."

Where have we heard this before? From Barry McCaffrey, Bill Clinton's drug czar, who turned out to be so hardline that he refused to admit there was any evidence of marijuana's therapeutic value and could not stomach the idea of letting states set their own policies regarding medical use of the plant. Under McCaffrey, the federal government went beyond busting medical marijuana growers and distributors by threatening doctors who dared recommend marijuana to their patients with loss of their prescription privileges and jail. In other words, it tried  to punish them for exercising their freedom of speech, a policy that was rejected by a federal appeals court in a 2002 decision that the Supreme Court declined to review.

Although McCaffrey had little concern for actual cancer patients who use marijuana to relieve the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, the former general liked to say that suppressing drug use is more like treating a cancer than waging a war. As I noted in 1998, however, he "still thinks that people who possess politically incorrect chemicals should be arrested, humiliated, imprisoned, and divested of their property. Presumably, though, it should be done with compassion."

So far the Obama administration is notably better than either of the two preceding administrations on sentencing, and it has sent encouraging signals regarding medical marijuana (although the reality still does not match the rhetoric). But as the Journal notes, "prior administrations talked about pushing treatment and reducing demand while continuing to focus primarily on a tough criminal-justice approach." We should not be fooled by medicalized language into believing that drug prohibition is less brutal or less of an assault on our rights. Pace Kerlikowske, the government will be "at war with people in this country" as along as it tries to forcibly prevent them from altering their consciousness with taboo substances.

In a 2000 column, on the occasion of McCaffrey's resignation, I reviewed some of his anti-drug whoppers. In 2006 I noted McCaffrey's declaration that the U.S. was winning the war on medical intervention against Afghan opium. That pronouncement turned out to be premature. I discuss drug policy reformers' hopes for Kerlikowske here, here, and here.

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  1. No more enemy combatants, no more war on terrorists, now no more drug war.

    Hope and Change every day!

  2. We’re not at war with people in this country.

    The forthcoming book by Naomi Klein, “Another Isolated Incident”, will show that this is an out-and-out lie. Too bad the ghostwriter (I can’t remember his name, Bradley Macko?) won’t get any of the credit. Still, pick up a copy, fight the power!

  3. A domestic contingency operation on drugs, then? Things’re lookin’ up!

  4. phalkor,

    I spewed bottled water when I read that.

  5. Way to crush my heart between the headline and first sentence, Sullum. Who do you think you are, Radley Balko?

  6. Afghan opium? What Afghan opium?
    Karzai’s brother threatens Mcclatchy reporter

    see name for link as well

  7. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”

    Fuck you, Kerlikowske.

  8. What just happened?

  9. We’re not at war with people in this country.

    Lying sack of shit.

    He’ll fit right in.

  10. Let’s see if this fixes it.

  11. We’re not at war with people in this country.

    We’re at war with their constitutional rights.

    Oh… and their dogs.

  12. Let see if this works.

  13. a shit rose by any other name is still a shit rose

  14. War on Drugs, War on Obesity, War on Smoking, this country is at war with its people. I mean, come on. Smoking bans, bans on transfats, liquor laws, .08 BAC for DUI.

    I do regard this as positive news.


  16. Epi, what do you think you’re doing!??!?

    Screwing up my internets…kids these days.


  18. And now so have I. Sorry.

  19. Do we need a Hit & Run Czar?

  20. Someone is spoiling it for everyone.

  21. It’s okay, I forgive you.

    *throws epi and ? each a scooby snack*

  22. u r doin it rong

    u haz wrecked mah toob

  23. I was jealous of !

    I promise never to view source again

  24. Episiarch,

    No better way to get the ban hammer than to tamper with the script.

  25. Xeones | May 14, 2009, 2:34pm | #

    Goddammit, that was funny.

    Somebody’s probably going to have to put this thread out of its misery before all the tubes become infected.

  26. Question mark started it with a div embed, I was merely trying to fix it; but I think the only solution would be for the web admin to go in and actually delete the embeds.

  27. We’re not at war with people in this country.

    What the Fuck? In what way exactly aren’t we at war with people in this country?

  28. I was merely trying to fix it

    So you’re Obama to ?’s Bush?

    I think that means phalkor is Geithner.

  29. Good-bye, Episiarch. I hope you’ve learned not to tamper with things beyond your understanding.

  30. I guess this does not help?

  31. Yuck. You damn kidz.

  32. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”

    But … but … there are CASUALTIES on both sides already! Not just metaphorical damage to the Bill of Rights, but actual dead or wounded people and pets! Unless this fellow’s declaration guarantees no more casualties, then it is without meaning.

    Here is the language I want to see employed: “The War on Drugs is hereby declared over and the Controlled Substances Act repealed. The Bill of Rights and the American People won. God bless and protect the United States of America.”

  33. Here is the language I want to see employed: Dick Cheney is war mongering zionist capitalist imperialist theocrat and the OG of the military industrial complex he shouldn’t be allowed to breathe let alone talk- oh, wait a second I thought I was on The Huffington Post. Sorry!

  34. Yes America IS at
    “WAR on our own citizens”

    If we weren’t, then how do you explain imprisoning so many citizens for using a plant that is less harmful than legal substances????? If were not at war then why do more than half of the American citizens want marijuana to be legal? If we are not at war then why are we turning non violent tax paying citizens into tax burdens for the rest of us?????????????????????????????

    just another follower without a backbone to stick up for what he has proven he knows is right, too sad.

  35. “….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.”

    Saying that the Obama administration is “likely” to do something is pretty weak. They also say that criminal actions will continue. I asume that means no-knock raids and all the rest. I am not impressed yet.

  36. It burns me eyes !

  37. “>”>

  38. White House Czar Calls for End to ‘War on Drugs’?

    Ah, Jeez, Not This Shit Again!

    New Drug Czar Is Seeking Ways to Bolster His Hand
    Published: Sunday, March 17, 1996

    General McCaffrey knows a war when he sees one, first in Vietnam and more recently in the Persian Gulf, where he led the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division. So it seemed remarkable that during an hourlong interview in his Washington office, he avoided the cliche of a war on drugs.

    “The analogy of cancer is far more adaptive and useful as a model to a way of thinking and talking about the problem,” the general said.

    Just Do What? By Jacob Sullum
    McCaffrey has another metaphor up his sleeve: “He compares the drug problem to a cancer that requires treatment, cautioning listeners not to expect victory for at least 10 years.”

    “We’ve got a national campaign by drug legalizers, in my view, to try and use medicinal uses of drugs and legalization of hemp as a stalking horse to get in under the radar screen.”
    ~ Gen. Barry McCaffrey – Former Drug Czar (Clinton)

    How America Lost the War on Drugs
    Ben Wallace-WellsPosted Dec 13, 2007
    In 1996, less than a year into his term, the new drug czar met Jim Burke, a smooth-talking, silver-haired executive who chaired the Partnership for a Drug-Free America – the advertising organization best known for the slogan “This is your brain on drugs.” “Burke personally was very hard to resist,” one of his former colleagues tells me. “I’ve seen him sell many conservative members of Congress and also liberals like Mario Cuomo.”

    US: McCaffrey’s Brain On Drugs 05/04/00

    “A more accurate comparison is to the fight against cancer — “Prevention coupled with treatment accompanied by research,”
    ~ Barry McCaffrey said in his final report on America’s drug problem.

    McCaffrey Advocates Prevention, Treatment
    S.F. Gate January 03, 2001
    The longtime rallying cry of a “war on drugs” to describe the effort to curtail illegal drug use in the United States has become “misleading” the White House drug policy director says.

    “The whole notion that someone could be a drug czar simply reflects ignorance of how the American Government works,”
    ~ Prof. Mark A. R. Kleiman,
    a drug-policy expert at Harvard University.

    We ain’t at war with these drug thug worrier degenerates,
    To them we’re lepers.
    Cops paid by taxes should remain neutral.
    Not politicops…

    CAPITOL UPDATE By John Lovell March 27, 2009
    Law enforcement launched its major push against AB 390, Assembly Member Ammanio’s marijuana legalization bill. Police Chiefs all over the state contacted each member of the Assembly Public Safety Committee and urged members to reject this terrible proposal – a proposal that, among other things, would have lowered the penalties for selling marijuana to children from a felony to a mere infraction. Your calls made a huge impact.

    Legalizing Legal Lies

    OK lets wrap this Ganjawar thing up. Nixon lied to Congress and rejected his own tax paid study to start the Controlled Substance Act for greed and control, not helping kids. By including Hemp and Rx Ganja, not included in the 1937 Tax Act. He eliminated competition for fossil fools, trees, steel, paper, meat, dairy, plastic, lubricants and thousands of medicinal and health care products. While bloating the Prison/Police Industrial Complex, World Bankster interest and the Military. As well as our global stash of DEA officiates. Black budgets funding elections, coups and Contras. Could you order a better agenda for a few filthy rich to prosper at the expense of the blue collar labor pool. Gutting Fort Knox to pay off their trillion dollar gambling debts.. High unemployment is an incentive against whistleblowing. Dangling that j-o-b carrot like trickle down voodoo economics.

    We’re still just numbers and still we argue each other over the hobgoblins they toss, like bones to stray hungry dogs. Afraid of the chance of our good names or vested ignorance getting exposed? Cozy closet tokers. Or the expert soothsayers predicting futures and legislating moronality. The system is what is rotten and the Ganjawar is only a leg of the octopus with several DNCGOPerversions from NAFTA/GATT to the Higher Education Ax maintaining dysfunction. Prison slave labor is Constitutionally legal! Cheaper than the freight from Wallmart Streets China sweatshops. That is cheaper than made in the USA. Research is banned! 95% busted, cop a plea to avoid mandatory minimum sentencing deterrents to jury trials. Stigmatizing stoners for the very same applications as for racist stigmatizing or gender stigmatizing or any stigmatizing. For a means to an end. Can’t keep someone down if they’re innocent. Have to make em guilty or at least feel guilty or threatened. Absolutely nothing wrong with smoking Ganja. Thousand year old practice with no toxic reactions or deaths. Comparing it to chemical cigarettes is as false as the Gateway and Mo Potent than yo mama Grimm Fairytales.

    Logical if family farms, Indians and poor Mexicans could grow Hemp and utilize the seed, oil and fiber as Canada and 30 other countries do. Spurting the textiles growth and a Willie Nelson biodiesel truckstop for local communities. They could sustain their villages and lessen the tax burden. Only threatening Ag Chem Biz and farm labor exploitation profits. Getting back to the traditional ways of organic food and natural fiber, not cottons 90 million pounds of poisons. Aborting more bible belt op rescue babies than Roe V Wade. OK for asbestos to cancerize US towns populations, DDT PCB Aspartame and Agent Orange drugs aren’t even scheduled. Mental Illness and Drug Addiction aren’t on most health insurance menu’s. “Treatment” Asylums bars are as thick as prisons, without a crime even needed. Mandatory “treatment” is like getting answers from torture. Anything you say mon. 3000 kids raped in juvenile prison each year. PTSD isn’t scheduled either. 7.4.9 D.C. Convergence.

    The Global Ganja Gathering of 2009

    4/20 @ 4:20

    These DEAth Merchants and War Brokers have no humanity in their bottom line. We would harp on any foreign country terrorizing the elderly and sick. Instant demonizing, profiled and plastered over the media. But no deviating from the manual for terrorizing our own finding aid with Ganja. So many red flags not seen or censored. Stories hidden in hopes of being forgotten, who in the hell do they think they’re kidding? Ganja is or Ganja isn’t. Physics says it is. Debates over.

    DEAth lies are a means to a semi-religious duty of a kind of puritanical unattainable goal of perpetuating profits maintaining dysfunction. The dirty DEAty use violence intimidation and degradation to cleanse the loyal masses of -fill in the blank- I sincerely don’t advocate violence on these liars and scum, not that I give a damn about their safety. They deserve the gallows along with Boosheney Klintoongord and their administrations torturing Ganja users either Psychologically or Physically. Including Oblamo’s DNC ditto’s and rehashed Klintoonians. I don’t advocate violence because they have all the big guns and I hate cages. Include the Corporation clones and Banksters these elected lobbyists work for. Damn their black hearts!


    Why is the DEA terrorizing sick people? We’ve lost 40 members this year, and that number will increase because of this raid,
    ~ Diana Dodson

    “Yes, we still survive the DEA’s raid and American injustice. We were raided Sept. 5 at 6:50 am. However, that’s just a minor interference by the federal government into the lives of sick and dying people. No injustice will keep us from our work, no injustice will stop the truth.”

    During the Sept. 5 raid, 20 gun-toting DEA agents, led by Patrick Kelly, stormed the WAMM property, arresting a pajama-clad Corral and husband Michael before razing 130 marijuana plants to the ground with chain saws. DEA agents destroyed WAMM’s 2002 crop, thus depriving the cooperative’s 238 members of the medicine they use to treat AIDS, cancer, epilepsy and other fatal and highly painful disorders.

    “This is an act of violence under guise of the law,”
    ~ Joe Wouk,
    WAMM supporter said as the DEA drove away
    in SUV vans and U-Haul trucks stuffed with massacred pot plants.

    “56 percent of all people using illegal drugs are using marijuana. Legalizing marijuana would create a chink in the DEA’s armor, a lot of budgets would go south. That’s why they don’t care how many sick people are hurt by this.”
    ~ Bruce Mirken,
    Medical Marijuana Policy Project communications director.

    The Murder of Peter McWilliams
    An Indictment, Not an Obituary – by Richard Cowan

    Peter McWilliams, 50, best selling author, poet, photographer, publisher, libertarian crusader, medical marijuana activist, AIDS patient and cancer survivor, was found dead on the floor of his bathroom, apparently having choked to death after vomiting, for want of medical marijuana.

    There will be an autopsy, but whatever the immediate cause of death may have been, he was murdered by the United States Government as surely as if they shot him.

    The Rainbow Farm Massacre

    For over 5 years Rainbow Farm was the location of the best Pro-Hemp Festivals in the Mid-West. The 2-3 day festivals drew crowds of Drug Reform Activists that numbered literally in the thousands. Over the Labor Day weekend (in September of 2001) over 100 Local, State and Federal agents descending onto the grounds of Rainbow Farm. In the next few days they stalked and murdered the owner, Tom Crosslin and his friend Roland Rohm.

    Drug War Travesties

    Eugene Siler. Cops torture him to get him to sign a consent form for their search of his place.

  39. Here’s a note I sent – the second paragraph is my paragraph.


    I am pleased to learn that you reject the idea of a “war on drugs,” but I hope your commitment goes deeper than a simple change in terminology. It is time for meaningful policy change: an exit strategy for the drug war.

    The “drug war” has been a vast, unmitigated, racist and cruel failure. Prohibition simply never has worked and only causes a lot of suffering and death due to the willingness to take huge risks for the enormous profits engendered. As an example, even the poppy fields of Afghanistan–if they just legalized drugs, this could be an enormous economic opportunity that would help local farmers, destabilize the Taleban and increase productivity of an enormously useful and in-demand stockpile of morphine. It does have medicinal uses! Plus, heroin could be produced to help ween addicts off of drugs.

    It will take innovative thinking to get us out of the mess created by the policies of the last several decades, and a wide range of solutions should be up for debate. I urge you to put all ideas on the table, including regulating marijuana like alcohol.

    The administration is off to a good start with its support for ending federal raids on medical marijuana patients, fixing the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, and repealing the federal ban on syringe exchange funding.

    However, I remain concerned because so far, there has been more talk than action. Medical marijuana raids have continued and the syringe ban is still in the budget President Obama submitted to Congress.

    Please back up your call for an end to the war on drugs by considering bold policy changes that will end this misguided war in practice, not just in name.

  40. According to the right, drugs should only be legal for right-wing talk-show hosts and Republican Congressmen…

  41. Clavin, you do know the current POTUS used to lines of coke in the men’s room at Occidental college right?

  42. “If we weren’t, then how do you explain imprisoning so many citizens for using a plant that is less harmful than legal substances????? If were not at war then why do more than half of the American citizens want marijuana to be legal? If we are not at war then why are we turning non violent tax paying citizens into tax burdens for the rest of us?????????????????????????????”

    You forgot to mention the War on Some Drugs cheeleading in the form of encouraging piss tests to show your worthiness for a job, thereby discouraging people who are qualified but are unwilling to give up personal liberty in order to seek temporary financial security.

    The war on some drugs disqualifies qualified, hard working, responsible cannabis using individuals from contributing to society.

  43. This is a ridiculous argument that should have never happened in the first place. The man that created the war on drugs was actually one of the main proponents of the introduction of crack cocaine into L.A.

    That’s right.

    The government of this country has been impeding our rights under the policies of a past mega-hypocrite douche bag who didn’t deserve to run this country. Thanks for spending my tax dollars and ruining my constitution postmortem, Ex-President Reagan.

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