Federal drug czar Gil Kerlikowske will travel the U.S. in a “listening tour” to gather ideas for President Obama’s first national drug control policy declaration, due early next year. Kerlikowske started this past weekend in Seattle, where he also spoke to the National Criminal Justice Association and the IJIS Institute. Kerlikowske was the Seattle police chief for nine years. Other stops on the tour will include El Paso, St. Louis, Carbondale, Ill., Denver, New Orleans and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The sessions will be invitation-only, not open to the public.
In a speech in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Kerlikowske stuck to his theme that “addiction is a disease” and the Obama administration will “treat it as much as a public health problem as a public safety one.:” Kerlikowske ticked off several “myths” about drugs, including that treating methamphetamine addicts doesn’t work. He alluded to former meth addicts who are “back in the community, working and paying taxes.” Asked about the Bush administration’s emphasis on marijuana prosecutions, Kerlikowske indicated that the Obama White House would spend relatively more effort on prescription drug abuse. The drug czar said he supports the ongoing federal advertising campaign that tries to discourage adolescent drug abuse, but the House of Representatives wants to cut funding for the program, citing an evaluation asserting that it has not been effective.