June 16th, 2009 – Rolling Stone’s June issue takes an in-depth look at the evolving political climate surrounding drug policy, including a deliciously embarrassing visit with drug czar Gil Kerlikowske. Remember Kerlikowske’s recent statement about not calling it a “war on drugs” anymore? Well, guess what he’s got in his office:

…despite this sudden outbreak of sanity, rumors of the drug war’s death are greatly exaggerated. Visitors to the drug czar’s office in Washington – formally known as the Office of National Drug Control Policy – are greeted by the visage of Uncle Sam on a poster declaring, WE ARE AT WAR. ARE YOU DOING ALL YOU CAN?article04062005b

You really couldn’t ask for a better exhibit in the total incoherence and rank dishonesty of the drug czar’s claim that our drug policy isn’t a war. I don’t blame him for trying and it’s certainly encouraging that we’ve reached a point at which the drug war is so controversial that they’re trying to change its name. But how could they possibly forget to take down the damn sign? I mean, really, did they forget that Rolling Stone was stopping by?

The story goes on to brilliantly juxtapose Kerlikowske’s law-enforcement credentials against his comical inability to answer basic questions about the issues he works on:

Yet when faced with questions about national drug policy, he can turn as evasive as Sarah Palin without a teleprompter. Does the tripling of marijuana arrests since 1990 represent good policy? He’d like to look at the issue more closely. Would the feds respect the laws of states that vote to legalize marijuana consumption for adults? A great question, he says – but one he won’t venture to answer. Does the U.S. experience with Plan Columbia provide a template for dealing with the violent cartels in Mexico? He just doesn’t know. “After three weeks, I’m still finding my way around the office,” he says with a laugh.

The whole thing is a brutal embarrassment and a vivid illustration of the appalling intellectual bankruptcy that characterizes the government’s position on drug policy in general. These are extremely basic policy questions, but they have serious implications. If you can’t even begin to make informative statements about federal policy, then what right do you have to dismiss calls for reform? Is there even a shred of legitimacy to Kerlikowke’s opposition to legalization if he can’t even tell us what the current policy is supposed to be?

We spend billions of dollars and imprison millions of people in honor of this great anti-drug crusade and the people running the whole thing in Washington can’t even figure out what to call it, let alone give us a straight answer about why any of this is in the best interest of the nation. In fairness, Kerlikowske’s reluctance to defend or even discuss drug policy is a product of the reform movement’s success at politicizing the issue and his silence likely owes more to caution than bald ignorance. Still, one is generally considered to have won the debate when their opponent refuses to speak.

At this point, I’d only be mildly surprised to see these guys just clam up entirely and announce that our drug policy can’t be publicly discussed for national security reasons. Source.

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