Yesterday Vice President Joe Biden announced the appointment of Gil Kerlikowske as the country’s drug czar. Kerlikowske is the Chief of Police in Seattle, Washington. Both the city and the state have been in the forefront of harm reduction. Although Kerlikowske has not been a strenuous advocate of such policies, he has not opposed them.
In 2008 drug policy reformers sought lessons from Prohibition and Repeal and hope from the election of Barack Obama. Many now feel that the appointment of Kerlikowske justifies that hope. Activists might have preferred a public health expert as the new czar, but Kerlikowske’s neutrality represents a significant change in policy from the Bush administration.
Most of the money the federal government spends on preventing illegal drug use is on the supply side rather than on treatment. For four years,I worked as a nurse in a methadone clinic. That experience convinced me that education, support, and ongoing treatment are the keys to reducing our country’s drug addiction problem.