Obama’s new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, says it is time to move away from the “war” rhetoric surrounding federal drug policy. Since Kerlikowske has just assumed office, this is exactly the right thing to do – set a whole new tone from the militarized approach we have seen over the past 20-30 years.
Drug abuse is a problem that must be dealt with, but we don’t need to send troops to Latin America, we don’t need former generals like Barry McCaffrey to oversee drug policy, and we don’t need police officers conducting raids on American homes with machine guns and flash bang grenades.
The political climate on drug policy is shifting. Republican governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger are calling for an open debate on legalizing marijuana. New York is finally discarding its Rockefeller drug laws. And Latin American leaders are urging the U.S. to reverse course. Obama seems interested in a new direction but the appointment of a sensible law enforcement official like Kerlikowske and talk of “more treatment” is not enough. We need more decisive action away from the criminalized approach to drug policy. The time is right to just do it.
For Cato research on this subject, go here.