Ending the ‘war on drugs’

ENDING THE ‘WAR ON DRUGS’…. It’s been very encouraging of late to see the Obama administration chart a new course on drug policy. Obama’s Justice Department has scrapped federal raids on legal medical marijuana clubs established in states, for example, and has also tried to bring some sanity to the vast sentencing disparities between possession of powdered cocaine and rock cocaine.

Even better, the president’s new head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, is dropping the whole notion of a “war on drugs.”

The Obama administration’s new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting “a war on drugs,” a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation’s drug issues.

“Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them,” he said. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”

Mr. Kerlikowske’s comments are a signal that the Obama administration is set to follow a more moderate — and likely more controversial — stance on the nation’s drug problems. Prior administrations talked about pushing treatment and reducing demand while continuing to focus primarily on a tough criminal-justice approach.

It is, in other words, a welcome change. Indeed, Kerlikowske told the WSJ that the Obama administration intends to address drug policy as a public health issue, not a criminal matter.

This has always seemed like a common-sense shift in emphasis, and it’s long overdue.

As Matthew DeLong noted, “[T]he government’s apparent recognition that America’s tough drug control policies have failed to stem drug use or availability — while ballooning the nation’s incarceration rate — is certainly welcome news for those who support a more realistic and compassionate approach to tackling the drug problem.”