Mainstream Media Outlets Are Buying the Drug Czar's "Third Way" Lie, Hook, Line, and Sinker


Media outlets have published reports from Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske's Tuesday speech at the Center for American Progress. As you might expect, several of the stories are straight transcription jobs, lacking response comments from drug reform advocates, or independent data. In two cases, the reports contain blatant falsehoods.

Here are the worst offenders:

ABC (republished by Yahoo!): "Obama's Drug Czar Stumps for 'Third Way' Policy"

"To hear President Obama's drug czar tell it, the leading voices on drug policy are kind of crazy," reads the lede to Chris Good's exceptionally lazy piece. While Kerlikowske utterly mischaracterized the position of drug reform advocates, he didn't actually call them crazy.

This line from Good's report is also wrong: Kerlikowske was "promoting the White House's new National Drug Control Strategy, which calls for a focus on treatment and prevention rather than punishment." If Good had actually read Obama's 2013 federal budget proposal, he'd know that it allocates nearly 60 percent of the federal budget to drug law enforcement, AKA "punishment."

C-SPAN: "Drug Czar Outlines 'Third Way' for U.S. Drug Policy"

The vaunted cable outlet's report is only three paragraphs, but still contains a huge error. "Mr. Kerlikowske told the audience that the past few years has seen a reduction in the use of cocaine and methamphetamine, and that the White House has approved elimination of mandatory sentencing guidelines that disproportionately affected minorities." Actually, the White House didn't approve the elimination of the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine in 2010, it simply reduced it from 100-to-1, to 18-to-1. And not only did Obama not "eliminate" the disparity, he also failed to make the new sentencing guidelines retroactive.

The best report came from Hearst Newspapers. Reporter Dan Freedman sought comment from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition's Tom Angell, noted that the current federal drug budget allocates nearly 60 percent to enforcement, and added that "Kerlikowske's de-emphasis of law enforcement stood in contrast to a crackdown that U.S. attorneys in California ordered last year on medical marijuana businesses operating under state law." Gold star for you, Dan Freedman.