Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kerlikowske: One small step

There has been a certain amount of celebration about the fact that Gil Kerlikowske, the new "drug czar" and former police chief of Seattle, has said he doesn't want to use the term "war on drugs" any more, because people see it as a war on them, which is unhealthy for society. That's a good start, but one should realize that as long as the U.S. maintains prohibitionist policies, the result will be a war on those who choose to use (some government-disapproved) drugs. Because there is no victim in this "crime," in the particular sense that neither party to a drug transaction is going to compain to the government, is is the case with victims of robbery, assault and real crimes, the only way to try to enforce such laws is to invade peoples' privacy, to use stealth and forceful entry, all of which is warlike. It's nice that Kerlikowske doesn't want to use the war analogy anymore, but that doesn't mean the government will stop being warlike.

Kerlikowsek's position is the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Theoretically, he could use that position to advise the president that the best way to control drug use is to eliminate criminal penalties and enforce health and safety standards, seeking to control only behavior that explicitly harms other people. I'm not holding my breath, but I think events will overtake his willingness to be sensible.

The Drug Policy Alliance has a campaign to send a message to Kerlikowske to "end this misguided war in practice, not just in name," which I commend highly. DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann has made several appearances on the subject, at CNN, on Fox Business News, and elsewhere.

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