White House Drug Czar Speaks Out Against State Marijuana Laws

While the nation waits to see how U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will address the changing marijuana laws, White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske made it clear that, in his mind, nothing has changed and marijuana is still both dangerous and illegal.

According to McClatchy Newspapers, Kerlikowske was in Baltimore this week to announce the administration’s plans for fighting drugs. It was there that he called marijuana legalization an “extreme” approach and said that the Department of Justice is “obligated” to continue enforcing its laws, which ban pot as a highly addictive drug.

Gil Kerlikowske

White House Drug “Czar” Gil Kerlikowske

“No state, no executive, can nullify a statute that’s been passed by Congress,” said the Czar. His opinion is that the state laws simply don’t matter. That their presence is a non-issue in light of the federal laws, and that legalization and medical marijuana programs are simply federal violations that should be punished.

Interestingly, after detailing the president’s proposed drug control budget for next year, Kerlikowske went on to describe how “costly” the fight against drugs is.

As reported by McClatchy:

To fight drug use, he says in the report, the administration wants Congress to approve more than $10.7 billion for drug-education programs next year and to provide more drug treatment for people with substance abuse disorders. Kerlikowske adds in the report that the administration’s request for 2014 also includes $9.6 billion for domestic law enforcement, $3.7 billion for interdiction and $1.5 billion for international programs.

“The economic toll that drugs take on our country is absolutely incredible,” the drug czar said Wednesday, estimating the cost at $193 billion per year.

What’s particularly interesting, and seemingly lost on Kerlikowske and others in his position, is that ending the war on drugs would both save billions and slow the use of dangerous drugs. It is the war on drugs that perpetuates the black market of drugs. That’s not to say things like heroin and cocaine are not highly addictive and potentially harmful, but that the money spent on them is better spent on treatment programs than prisons. Because a prison sentence is no treatment for addiction.

We’ve been waiting for months to hear from Attorney General Eric Holder on the route the  DOJ will take in marijuana enforcement in light of new state laws. While some see this administration as potentially being the one to stop the state and federal conflict, others are more doubtful, believing the federal government won’t give up their War without a fight. Still, we can always hope for a resolution in Congress, as the one currently making the rounds would put a hands-off policy in place, protecting the will of the voters in states where marijuana laws have changed for the better.

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Elizabeth Renter is a freelance writer and editor who writes about criminal justice issues.

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  • http://RealGreenFCU.org Kevin Jones

    The feds are going to abide by all the statements they have made since Nov. 2012. In practice, and in blatantly clear statements they have said how they are going to deal with legalization both for medical and recreational use. They are going to “not focus on individual users abiding by state law” and heavily enforce the federal laws on any and all (within ability) drug marketers, distribution rings, and commercialization of sales and production.

    This is exactly what they have been doing. We are not waiting for clarity on this issue. They have been clear. We are waiting to hear something they won’t say, which is they just can’t do anything about the individuals who consume and produce small amounts for themselves. Nonetheless, looking at recent history and arrest records, the feds simply have never really dealt with individual users and small producers and have in fact left enforcement at lower levels to burden the states coffers and systems.
    As long as new laws allow locals to grow and possess, the feds are done!! They simply have never had, and are not gaining the fiscal strength to do anything about it. Spread the word.

    • http://420college.org 420 College

      agreed and agreed!!!! good point my friend.

    • steve

      Don’t u know they speak with a fork-ed tongue,,just sayin,,lol,,

  • http://www.MassCentral.com MassCentral

    Strange thing, kinda,,, When it comes to abortion it’s, “My Body My Choice!”

    Why can’t I have the same choice with Marijuana???

    Oh, I forget, Marijuana is dangerous.

  • Lunchboxicus

    “No state, no executive, can nullify a statute that’s been passed by Congress,”
    10th amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Gil Kerlikowske.

  • steve

    Is he out of his f’n mind what is he gonna do go to China and beg for more money or a Bank,lol,That man is a nut we don’t have the money nor in my mind there is no drug war except the so called war on people not the drugs either because they flo like a river,so where is all the money u get from the gov’mt and the cartels u r busting left and right,yeah right they will shoot ur ass for u,,,

  • http://www.LucasHempco.com Jeff Lucas

    One federal office of appointed bureaucrats, and another bureaucracy called the DEA, single handedly undermine the votes and the will of the People of 20 states.
    Mr. Gil doesn’t run America. The PEOPLE do. Mr. Gil doesn’t tell us where to go, we tell HIM where to go! He either needs to get on board with what the PEOPLE want, or he needs to get out of the way. And the obstructionists at the DEA needs to get out of the way as well, they do not represent the will of the People of the United States of America.

    • https://plus.google.com/111626591184353506175?rel=author David Matson

      Agree all around. While the bureaucracy has its own momentum and inertia, the DEA is still a branch of the Department of Justice, which is controlled by the executive branch. So it’s up to the President to exert some control, and set priorities there.
      Even if Obama instructed AG Holder to get someone at the DEA to re-prioritize immediately, it would take some time and effort to turn around the battleship that is the insane War on Drugs. But it shouldn’t be that hard to tell them to basically back off prosecuting charges that are legal under state law.
      Unfortunately, the President does not seem particularly interested in dealing with this, so the bureaucratic machine keeps marching on.

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