Marijuana: Obama administration has done poor job of talking about drug policy, czar says
Of late, Angell has become something of a Kerlikowske translator, or at least interpreter. Last month, as we reported, he saw positives in the drug czar saying that following the recent election, "it is clear that we're in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana."
Does he think Kerlikowske's latest comment suggests he's moderating his position on marijuana?
"While I know that the drug czar and I differ on whether we should replace the 'war on drugs' with legalization," Angell responds, "I get the sense that he is frustrated that folks higher up in the White House aren't giving drug policy reform the attention it deserves."
Angell also highlights Kerlikowske's frequent references to marijuana as being a public-health problem as opposed to a criminal dilemma -- the same line taken by Project SAM, an anti-marijuana legalization organization fronted by former Representative Patrick Kennedy that launched in Denver last month.
Indeed, one of Kerlikowske's quotes echoes a statement made to us by Project SAM principal Kevin Sabet, from the University of Florida. Kerlikowske tells MacLean's, "The 'war on drugs' is a good bumper sticker, but we know that the drug problem is unbelievably complex," while Sabet said, "We don't want our ideas to be able to fit on a bumper sticker. 'Legalize Pot' and 'Lock 'Em Up' both fit on a bumper sticker, but what we're doing doesn't."
For his part, Angell focuses on the contradiction between the drug czar's words and administration policies.
"Kerlikowske may well be sincere in his desire to see us move toward a more health-focused approach," he allows, "but the President keeps submitting drug-control budgets to Congress that continue the emphasis on funding punishment and interdiction programs over treatment and prevention programs."
Angell's conclusion: "It's about time someone at ONDCP [Office of National Drug Control Policy] started publicly agitating for the administration to match its policies to its rhetoric about the need to have a 'balanced approach' to drug control.'"
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Project SAM touts public-health approach to pot in fighting legalization."