Ever since putting up this post a few weeks ago, I've been wondering how Gil Kerlikowske went, seemingly overnight, from being a moderately progressive police chief to the hardass, "legalization is not in my vocabulary" drug czar he is today.

While in Seattle, he did well with needle exchanges, Hempfest, and programs to send drug offenders to treatment instead of prison. He never railed against the drug war, but his actions weren't those of a zealous drug warrior.

Now that he's in the other Washington, he's fighting Prop 19 in California with disinformation campaigns and, well, saying things like "legalization is not in my vocabulary." (To be fair, drug-policy analyst Sanho Tree argues that "legalization" shouldn't be in anyone's vocabulary because it's misleading—we should be talking "regulation" instead.)

So what happened?

I requested an interview with Kerlikowske (about levamisole as well as his new job), which his people turned down. Then Seattle's other former police chief (and legalization/regulation advocate) Norm Stamper sent this my way—evidence that the nation's drug czar is required, by law, to oppose any efforts at legalization and regulation.

"No way," I said.

"I know, I was surprised, too," Stamper said. "In re-upping the office of national drug control policy charter, it basically says that he is banned from any kind of public statements to the effect for support for the legalization of marijuana. My reaction was: 'Wow. And this is America?'"

The exact language, from the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998:

The director shall... take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that—

A. is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and B. has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;

"He’s the drug czar," Stamper said. "He must be opposed to drug use—not just drug abuse. His budget is reliant on continuation of the status quo. The same could be said of the drug cartels and major traffickers."

So that explains that. Even if Kerlikowske secretly hopes Prop 19 passes, he is banned from saying so.

Meanwhile, Vicente Fox (former president of Mexico) throws out his money quote on California's marijuana-legalization vote: "May God let it pass."


Also: Did you know Norm Stamper has a new hobby? Acting! (Lord help him.) He's in a two-person show at Hugo House called Brilliant Traces (in which he plays an Alaskan hermit) this weekend and next weekend.