Pot Legalization Won’t Change Mission

Apr 25, 2013

The nation’s drug czar said Wednes­day the legal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana in Wash­ing­ton state and Col­orado won’t change his office’s mis­sion of fight­ing the country’s drug prob­lem by focus­ing on addic­tion treat­ment that will be avail­able under the fed­eral health over­haul. Gil Ker­likowske, direc­tor of the National Drug Con­trol Pol­icy, released Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s 2013 strat­egy for fight­ing drug addic­tion Wednes­day at the Johns Hop­kins School of Med­i­cine in Bal­ti­more. The strat­egy includes a greater empha­sis on using pub­lic health tools to bat­tle addic­tion and divert­ing non-violent drug offend­ers into treat­ment instead of pris­ons. “The legal issue of Wash­ing­ton and Col­orado is really a ques­tion you have to go back to the Depart­ment of Jus­tice,” Ker­likowske said when asked about the impact the two states would have on national drug pol­icy. The key to the administration’s efforts to deliver health care to drug addicts is in the fed­eral health care over­haul because it will require insur­ance com­pa­nies to cover treat­ment for sub­stance abuse dis­or­ders, as they cur­rently do for chronic dis­eases like dia­betes. That change could lead to addic­tion treat­ment for sev­eral mil­lion more peo­ple. “Treat­ment shouldn’t be a priv­i­lege lim­ited to those who can afford it, but it’s a ser­vice avail­able to all who need it,” Ker­likowske said. The strat­egy out­lined by Ker­likowske also sup­ports a greater empha­sis on crim­i­nal jus­tice reforms that include drug courts and pro­ba­tion pro­grams aimed at reduc­ing incar­cer­a­tion rates. It also will include community-based polic­ing pro­grams designed to break the cycle of drug use, crime and incar­cer­a­tion while steer­ing law enforce­ment resources to more seri­ous offenses. Ker­likowske, a for­mer Seat­tle police chief, said addic­tion needs to be acknowl­edged as a dis­ease that can be diag­nosed and treated. He said the debate over the nation’s drug prob­lem has become locked in a highly charged ide­o­log­i­cal debate in which there are no sim­ple answers. “We’re not going to solve it by drug legal­iza­tion, and we’re cer­tainly not in my career going to arrest our way out of this prob­lem, either, and these two extreme approaches really aren’t guided by the expe­ri­ence, the com­pas­sion or the knowl­edge that’s needed,” Ker­likowske said. Ker­likowske was joined by Dr. Nora Volkow, direc­tor of the National Insti­tute on Drug Abuse; Anthony Batts, Baltimore’s police com­mis­sioner; and Dr. Eric Strain, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Sub­stance Abuse Treat­ment and Research at Johns Hop­kins Bayview Med­ical Cen­ter. Batts noted that Mary­land law­mak­ers this year showed signs of becom­ing more lenient on laws relat­ing to mar­i­juana, and he expressed his oppo­si­tion to leniency. The state Sen­ate passed a bill to decrim­i­nal­ize the pos­ses­sion of less than 10 grams of mar­i­juana, but the bill did not pass in the House of Del­e­gates. Batts said he views mar­i­juana as a “starter drug.” “I’m see­ing more takeover rob­beries — peo­ple break­ing into houses — sur­round­ing mar­i­juana, and it is deal­ing with younger peo­ple who are doing these takeover rob­beries that are result­ing in mur­ders, shoot­ings and killings,” Batts said. New­shawk: The GCW Source: Asso­ci­ated Press (Wire) Author: Brian Witte, The Asso­ci­ated Press Pub­lished: April 24, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 The Asso­ci­ated Press

Go here to see the orig­i­nal:
Pot Legal­iza­tion Won’t Change Mission

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