Kerlikowske Says Time To Move Beyond ‘War on Drugs’

May 14, 2009
The new head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, told The Wall Street Journal that he doesn't believe the nation is fighting a so-called war on drugs. In an interview with the newspaper, Kerlikowske described the war on drugs terminology as unhelpful. "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a ‘war on drugs' or a ‘war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them. We're not at war with people in this country." The WSJ says Kerlikowske's comment underscores "a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use."

Professor Alex Kreit, in guest post for ACSblog, examined the new administration's evolving stance on drug use, writing that "while drug abuse may not be the most pressing issue we face today, Kerlikowske will be taking office in the midst of an unprecedented shift in attitude among both policy-makers and public opinion about our nation's drug policy." In a recent ACS Issue Brief, Kreit, an assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and director of the school's Center for Law and Social Justice, wrote that the nation's "war on drugs" has failed, and that the new administration and Congress should support policies that help people overcome drug abuse. Kreit suggests that government should shift focus to supporting drug treatment and prevention measures.