\"\"I wanted you to be the first to know — we just confirmed in the last hour that President Obama selected Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske to be his drug czar.

While we’re disappointed that President Obama has selected another law enforcement official instead of a major public health advocate, we’re cautiously optimistic that this nominee will support the president’s drug policy reform agenda.

What gives us hope is that Seattle has been at the cutting edge of harm reduction and other drug policy reform developments including:

  • Being among the first cities to implement syringe exchange programs;
  • Legalizing medical marijuana ten years ago (statewide);
  • Categorizing marijuana arrests as the lowest law enforcement priority; and
  • Implementing innovative overdose prevention strategies.

Kerlikowske is clearly familiar with drug policy reforms, and has not been a forceful opponent. Although a police chief may not be an ideal pick, given President Obama\'s call for "shifting the paradigm, shifting the model, so that we focus more on a public health approach," we remain hopeful that he has the potential to provide much needed national leadership in implementing the president\'s campaign commitments.

We look forward to working with you to ensure that he fulfills President Obama\'s promises to treat drug abuse as a public health issue, lift the federal ban on funding syringe access, eliminate the disparity between sentencing for crack and powder cocaine, and stop the raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in California.  

It\'s a potentially transformative moment. Together, we’ll make sure Kerlikowske follows through.





Ethan Nadelmann
Executive Director
Drug Policy Alliance Network


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