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The Obama administration’s top drug policy official said Tuesday that although the government continues antidrug efforts on the Southwest border, “we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem.”
National Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske said that it’s time to “treat drug addiction as a disease.”
The administration’s strategy seeks a middle ground between drug legalization and an enforcement of drug laws, Kerlikowske said in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank founded by John Podesta, former White House chief of staff to President Clinton.
The new strategy, which emphasizes drug-prevention programs and alternatives to prison for drug users, could become a flash point in President Obama’s bid for re-election in November.
Kerlikowske’s de-emphasis of law enforcement stood in contrast to a crackdown that U.S. attorneys in California ordered last year on medical marijuana businesses operating under state law.
“It would be nice if they actually meant what they are saying, or if their policies matched their words,” said Tom Angell, San Francisco-based media relations director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which advocates drug legalization and regulation.
Congressional Republicans said this is no time to de-emphasize the enforcement of drug laws.
Dan Freedman is national editor in the Hearst Newspapers Washington bureau.