Drug Czar Sees “Serious National Conversation” About Marijuana

Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office) head Gil Kerlikowske said Tuesday that the country is "in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana"—an at least rhetorical advance from his 2009 position that marijuana legalization is "not in the president's vocabulary and not in mine."

Kerlikowske's terse comments on the topic came in response to three marijuana legalization petitions posted on the White House's We the People web site, which promises to respond to any petition that garners more than 25,000 signatures. The three had a combined signature total of more than 173,000.

But they also come in a political context altered by last November's elections, when two states, Colorado and Washington, easily approved marijuana legalization initiatives. The use and possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults over 21 is now legal in both states, and officials in both are now grappling with the task of coming up with and implementing regulations for legal marijuana commerce. The federal government has yet to respond substantively as to whether or not it will seek to impede that process.

"Coming out of the recent election, it is clear that we're in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana," said Kerliwowske. "At President Obama's request, the Justice Department is reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington, given differences between state and federal law."

That was the extent of Kerlikowske's response, except for referring readers to a recent Barbara Walters interview with President Obama in which he wasn't ready "to go that far" when it came to the topic of pot legalization, but added that "we're going to need to have is a conversation about how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it's legal."

The rhetorical shift was "pretty significant," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a recently-formed group calling for decriminalization or legalization.

"I guess it makes a difference when marijuana legalization gets more votes than your boss does in an important swing state, as happened in Colorado this last election," Angell said. "From 'legalization is not in my vocabulary and it's not in the president's,' as Gil Kerlikowske often used to say, to 'it is clear that we're in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana' is a pretty stark shift."

Actions speak louder than words, Angell said, but still…

"Of course, what really matters is to what extent the administration actually shifts enforcement priorities and budgets, but I sure do like hearing the US drug czar acknowledge the fact that marijuana legalization is a mainstream discussion that is happening whether he likes it or not."

– Article originally from Stop the Drug War, used with permission.



  1. Mrs. Ratsrectum on

    The longer people like him have their way the more money the prohibitionists at all levels of government will continue to waste. He’s doing a great job wasting money and encouraging others to keep wasting it to keep cannabis illegal.

    Do you think at this rate you can keep cannabis illegal how much longer? It’ll be legal in 10 years, in 15 years, you may say.

    So instead of advising to SAVE all that money, your office makes you advise wasting it.

    You know what. Just shut up. Don’t say anything anti-cannabis. Just sit in your office and collect a paycheck.

    Or better yet! Start advising against wasting more money, a serious examination of the savings in money and fewer shattered lives.

  2. Tony Aroma on

    I can tell how serious the discussion is since the only example of that discussion Gil can site is a Barbara Walters interview. With mmj, the president at least issued executive memos, as meaningless as those turned out to be. Now he’s satisfied with a TV interview sound byte. I wonder if you could use that interview as a defense in federal court.

    But don’t blame Gil. He’s just doing the job that we are all paying him to do: speak out against the legalization of any Schedule 1 controlled substance. That’s the job description, and by that standard, he’s doing a great job.

  3. Mrs. Ratsrectum on

    He is not to be trusted. Period. He was talking crap earlier in the week in San Fransisco.

    He is just lulling the cannabis community into a false sense of security, as if the feds are going to ease up.

    Meanwhile, in Huffington Post I read that the legalization opponents have regrouped, let by Kennedy, Sabet, and Frum, and Sabot that asshole had to put his pinky ring seal of approval on the conviction of Aaron Sandusky, who was wrongly convicted. Jerry Sandusky was correctly convicted on charges of child molestation. Sabet has to be confused, but it’s what pays his bills and funds him.

    So the real question is: how much longer is the government going to continue wasting money on the obvious failure of cannabis prohibition?