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The Drug Czar speaks… and dances

ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske was interviewed this morning on KUOW in Seattle.
The audio is available here. It’s a nice extended interview, and gives you a chance to get to know Kerlikowske’s style a little bit.
It’s a mixed bag, with lots of pretty offensive stuff (of course) and some odd material where he puts on his tap shoes and dances up a storm.
Here are a couple of the exchanges…

Q: Is the DEA going to stop raiding medical marijuana facilities?
Kerlikowske: The medical marijuana issue was one that Attorney General Eric Holder briefly discussed, and I have not had my first meeting — ’cause I’ve only been on the job two weeks — with the Attorney General
Q: What have you accomplished, sir?
Kerlikowske: I know, I know, and, well I’m ending the phrase “War on Drugs, so I think that was my…”
Q: What’s it going to be, police action on drugs? Preemptive strike?
Kerlikowske: I don’t have a new term for it, but I can tell you that, that having a different conversation is important — but I haven’t had a chance to talk to the Attorney General, and spend time in depth on the medical marijuana issues and the statements he made, but I certainly plan on doing that.
Q: I notice that there was already, there was another raid in California by the DEA just, I think, in April. I think I saw one in April that happened. Are these — I know that the DEA is not under your purview, but, what’s your opinion?
Kerlikowske: Well, I think that there – the one thing we can say about using law enforcement resources…
Q: March 25th, I should clarify…
Kerlikowski: … is that the law enforcement resources are finite, there’s just this limited number. Law enforcement agencies use their personnel for the most dangerous offenders, for the violent crimes, for the drug traffickers, etc. Medical marijuana doesn’t quite rise to that level. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t illegal, and it doesn’t mean that in cases it’s not a front for some other type of activity, but I think that when I sit down with the Attorney General, and we actually get a chance to put this together in a more formalized fashion, we’ll have answers for you.

Then he danced around needle exchange for awhile, concluding:

KerlikowskeIn the next nine months, we’ll have the President’s drug strategy put together. I’ll have the opportunity to weigh in on the 2011 budget, and that’s where we want to see where we’re headed.

So the interviewer tried to nail him down, noting he had supported needle exchange in past jobs. Check out this move:

Kerlikowske: Needle exchange in Buffalo and needle exchange here in Seattle were not a law enforcement problem. They didn’t cause difficulties from a law enforcement standpoint. It’s much more complex than certainly just the law enforcement viewpoint, so that’s one of the issues too, along with medical marijuana that I’ll be spending time on.

— ie, it’s politics.
Marijuana legalization:

Q: Marijuana. Do you support legalization of marijuana?
Kerlikowske: No.
Q: And why is that?
Kerlikowske: It’s a dangerous drug.
Q: Now, why is it a dangerous drug?
Kerlikowske: It is a dangerous drug. There are numbers of calls to hotlines for people requesting help from marijuana. A number of people that have been arrested, and we test people and have data on this, that are arrested throughout the country, come in to the system with marijuana in their system, as arrests.
Q: But that’s — you were talking to me before about causality and correlation.
Kerlikowske: Right
Q: So why is — I mean, you could probably say that about sugar, caffeine, and, I don’t know, bubble gum. Maybe not bubble gum.
Kerlikowske: I would tell you this – that the legalization vocabulary doesn’t exist for me, and it certainly was made clear that it does not exist in President Obama’s vocabulary.

Wow. Talk about a weak effort to defend not legalizing marijuana! It looks like he’s just going to say “it’s not an option” and not even try to really justify it.
Later on in the interview he gets detailed in talking about treatment and some international issues, showing that it isn’t really that he’s hamstrung about talking due to his short tenure — it’s just that he’s hamstrung talking about things like marijuana and needle exchange.

[Thanks, Dashel]

Note: After the interview, the interviewer took questions from listeners. I didn’t listen to all of them, but there were some very good ones who really nailed Kerlikowske on his points (including one who apparently had read The Drug Czar is required by law to lie and referenced the provisions.

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