Legalization Groups Warm to Reported Drug Czar Pick

The man the Obama administration is looking at to possibly become the next Drug Czar is being met with cautious optimism by proponents of the decriminalism of marijuana and a treatment-based national drug policy.

Seattle Police Chief Gil Gil Kerlikowske is being looked at for a job in the Obama administration, a Democratic official confirmed Wednesday, while the Seattle Times reported that Kerlikowske had accepted the position tasked with crafting drug policy, likely assuming the position in spring or summer.

The nomination received positive, though measured, reactions from groups advocating the end of the War on Drugs.

"I would clearly identify it as a step in the right direction," said Norm Stamper, who preceded Kerlikowske as Seattle's chief of police, and now serves on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "He is a thoughtful individual; i think he can be influenced by research and would be more inclined than previous drug czars to rely on evidence-based solutions."

"This is a police chief that's had to work with users of medical marijuana and growers; he lives in the real world," said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML. "It would mark a clean break from the Barry McCaffrey and John Walters style of leadership on this issue," he added, in reference to earlier drug czars whose tenures had emphasized a law enforcement approach.

"Based on what I have read, the nominee would be a far better choice than anyone the Republicans would have put forward for the position," said William Redpath, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of the United States, who said he was not previously familiar with Kerlikowske. "The best choice of all for this post...would have been to nominate nobody and to announce that the Administration was going to work with the Congress to end federal drug prohibition in order to pass responsibility to the states, which is what occurred at the end of the federal prohibition of alcohol."

Stamper said that he hopes the move will mean an end to the War on Drugs, though he is not optimistic, and added that he had not spoken with Kerlikowske about the job.

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