Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske’s track record in Seattle — a city known for its progressive drug stances — offered a hint at how the Obama administration might wage the drug war, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “He’s likely to be the best drug czar we’ve seen, but that’s not saying much,” said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national nonprofit group focused on changing drug policies.
Nadelmann called Kerlikowske, 59, a “blank slate” because of his absence in drug-policy debates. He was encouraged by the chief’s ability to thrive in a city famous for drug courts, needle exchanges, methadone vans, and annual Hempfest celebration. “At least we know that when we talk about needle exchanges and decriminalizing marijuana arrests, it’s not going to be the first time he’s heard about them,” he said. Kerlikowske began working on drug-policy reforms for street users in certain neighborhoods. He gave his blessing to a pilot program in drug-plagued Belltown for officers to send drug users to treatment or job centers instead of jail. Kerlikowske’ serves on a committee that oversees the King County Drug Court. Treatment advocates praised Kerlikowske for setting a respectful tone emulated by the rank and file toward the city’s many innovative services for addicts. Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, now an ardent advocate of drug-law reforms, said Kerlikowske was likely picked less for his record on drug enforcement than for his intellect and national reputation. “He’s more inclined to support research-driven and evidence-based conclusions about public policy,” Stamper said.