Pubdate: Mon, 23 Feb 2009
Source: Capital Times, The  (WI)
Copyright: 2009 The Capital Times
Author: Ron du Bois


Dear Editor: White House officials have said President Barack Obama has
chosen as his drug czar the police chief of Seattle, a city with enlightened
policies on drug law enforcement. Gil Kerlikowske did not originate those
policies, but he has maintained them and seen their benefits during his nine
years as chief. He should be an effective advocate for Obama's own less
punitive positions.

After his Senate confirmation, Kerlikowske should get to work putting
flesh on Obama's campaign promise to "focus more on a public health
approach" to drug abuse. Step one would be to get Congress to lift the
ban on federal spending for needle-exchange programs, a proven method
of limiting the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and
hepatitis C. Candidate Obama said he favored lifting the ban.

The United States has a chance to make clear at the United Nations
summit on drugs in Vienna in March that it now favors needle
exchanges. Other "harm reduction" strategies that emphasize drug
treatment and intervention also deserve attention.

Candidate Obama also said he would end federal raids on providers of
marijuana in the 13 states that have legalized medical use of the
drug. As a senator, he backed a bill that would end the racial
disparities in sentencing for cocaine convictions.

"The war on drugs has been an utter failure," Obama said during the
campaign. A shift in drug policy from jail to treatment and
rehabilitation could be one of Obama's most meaningful

Ron du Bois

Stillwater, Okla. 
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