Is Having a National Drug Czar a Waste of Taxpayer Money?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
(graphic: Cannabis Defense Coalition)

Gil Kerlikowske is in the process of switching jobs within the Obama administration, leaving his post as U.S. drug czar to take over Customs and Border Protection. President Barack Obama has not announced a replacement to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and that’s just as well according to those who want to see the position eliminated altogether.


“One of the most helpful things the president can do right now is to not spend money on filling that position,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, whose office no longer prosecutes misdemeanor marijuana cases, told McClatchy Newspapers.


Holmes and those favoring the legalization of marijuana argue that having a drug czar is a waste of money, not to mention a relic of the past. Since the creation of the post in 1989, Americans’ attitudes towards marijuana have changed, with a majority in recent polls showing support for legalizing it.


Dissolving the Office of National Drug Control Policy would also save the government money, considering its annual budget is around $300 million.


Pro-legalization proponents were frustrated with Kerlikowske, a former police chief of Seattle, who refused to alter his tough stance on keeping marijuana illegal.


Supporters of the drug policy office say it would be a mistake to eliminate it, noting the danger that other drugs, such as methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, pose to society.


Getting rid of the office would only make it harder for the federal government to coordinate its anti-drug policies, according to Kevin Sabet, who served as an adviser on drug issues to Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.


And it would not mean the decriminalization of drugs like marijuana, Sabet adds, because any such move by the government would involve Congress as well as the White House.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Leatn More:

As Drug Czar Exits, does U.S. Really Need a New One? (by Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers)

Outgoing Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske's Greatest Hits (by Jacob Sullum, Reason)

Drug Czar Kerlikowske Suddenly Discovers Prescription Drug Death Crisis (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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