White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske delivered a strong call for better drug treatment and opposition to drug legalization today in his first address to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, meeting in Denver. “It is time to rethink our (drug) strategy,” Kerlikowske said. His call for a “robust public health response” to U.S. addiction problems will resonate with those who opposed the Bush administration’s emphasis on law enforcement. His comments on drug legalization–echoing those of President Obama–will disappoint some liberals.
Kerlikowske criticized the Washington Post for not publishing a letter from IACP President Russell Laine in rebuttal to an op-ed article the newspaper had run asserting that drug legalization would make police officers safer. A former police chief in Seattle and other cities, Kerlikowske promised that the Obama administration would not overlook calls by the IACP to improve drug treatment, prisoner re-entry into society, and the dysfunctional juvenile justice system. More than half of the 700,000 inmates released every year have some kind of mental health or addiction problem that should be dealt with, he said, concluding, “We have to be smarter about drugs, which doesn’t mean softer or weaker.”