US Drug Czar: "Legalization Is Not the Answer"

US Drug Czar: "Legalization Is Not the Answer"

By Gabrielle Wuhl 07/31/12

Gil Kerlikowske says pot legalization won't solve our drug problem—but neither will "locking everyone up."

Image: 
Kerlikowske comes down hard on pot.
Photo via

While giving a speech on drug policy yesterday in DC, US Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske shot down a question about "softening" marijuana policies, declaring that neither legalization nor decriminalization of drugs are viable solutions to America's drug problem. Kerlikowske had been speaking about the declining foreign drug production and domestic consumption rates when someone asked a question challenging the White House for prioritizing marijuana enforcement, despite alcohol and tobacco (which are legal) being more harmful and addictive. The Drug Czar responded: "It's a huge mistake to think that marijuana is a benign substance because it clearly is not." He went on to call the drug "addictive" and, while he doesn't think "locking everyone up for marijuana" was a solution, he maintained that "legalization isn't going to solve our drug problem." Despite his hard line on legalization, Kerlikowske has expressed his belief that addiction needs to be destigmatized, and treated as a health issue rather than a crime. "[The way we deal with addiction] should be looked at as less of a 'War on Drugs' and a lot more of a public health problem," he told The Fix in an exclusive interview earlier this month. "We need to break down those barriers, the stigma, the laws—we do not need to make it harder for people to recover."