Monday, May 27, 2013




Bad Advice

He's at it again.

On April 26, I quoted National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske, who two days earlier had released the President’s national blueprint for drug policy, the 2013 National Drug Control Strategy.  In it, President Obama's appointee had written" Put simply, an enforcement-centric 'war on drugs' approach to drug policy is counterproductive, inefficient, and costly. At the other extreme, drug legalization also runs counter to a public health and safety approach to drug policy."

To that I blogged "Sorry, but the White House here has it rear end-backward, with no acknowledgement- not even a hint of an acknowledgement- that marijuana is different than, say, cocaine or heroin."

Unfortunately, I was wrong.  Kerlikowske acknowledges a difference between marijuana and hard drugs- and believes marijuana is worse.  

No, really.   McClatchy reports that at an Urban Institute policy discussion on Thursday

Gil Kerlikowske, the White House director of national drug-control policy, said a study by his office showed a strong link between drug use and crime. Eighty percent of the adult males arrested for crimes in Sacramento, Calif., last year tested positive for at least one illegal drug. Marijuana was the most commonly detected drug, found in 54 percent of those arrested.

The study found similar results in four other cities: New York, Denver, Atlanta and Chicago. Among the cities, it included examinations of 1,736 urine samples and 1,938 interviews with men who were arrested.

Kerlikowske, a former police officer in Seattle who apparently learned little there, concludes “It means abandoning simplistic bumper-sticker approaches, such as boiling the issue down to a ‘war on drugs’ or outright legalization.”

There are many problems with the report from McClatchy reporter Rob Hotakainen, upon which Kerlikowske bases his logic-challenged approach.  The must be world turned upside down, given that a blogger on reason.com is guilty of sound reason, observing that the most commonly used drug- alcohol- was included in the study but omitted from Hotakainen's report.  Further

The most detail Adam II provides is whether the arrest was for a violent crime, a property crime, a drug crime, or "other." If you're going to argue (as Kerlikowske has) that the link between marijuana and crime is so troubling that it precludes the possibility of legalization, it certainly matters whether an arrest is the result of a traffic stop in which officers claimed to smell weed, an unconstitutional stop-and-frisk, or an undercover officer convincing an autistic student to buy him a joint.

Marijuana also is the most oft-used illegal drug and, because the penalty for its use in most jurisdictions is less than for most other banned substances, the individuals arrested (arrestee is a made-up word) would be more likely to admit to its use than, say, to partaking of heroin, cocaine, or amphetamines. Drug tests, further, are more likely to pick up use of marijuana than of most other drugs.   Means of testing, amount of drug, length of use, frequency of use, and personal metabolism are among the factors which determine whether a test will bepositive.  Your mileage will vary.

Digby maintains if Administration officials "think it's going to destroy the moral fiber of America (or whatever they're so afraid of) they should just say it instead of using nonsensical 'statistical' evidence that can't stand up against the most rudimentary logic."  Gavin Aronsen of Mother Jones applauds Kerlikowske's preference for "rehabilitation over incarceration" as "a step in the right direction" while noting "it still paints pot smokers with a broad brush as drug abusers who need help to get their lives back on track."   

Gil Kerlikowske's broad brush, as well as his opposition to both marijuana legalization and the drug war, constitute a big step in the wrong direction.  Change you can believe in.


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