Kerlikowske has also overseen a shift in drug policy from enforcement to treatment. Most notably, he allowed the Get Off the Streets program to hatch in the Central District in 2006. That year, then-lieutenant John Hayes (now a captain) set up a table in an open-air drug market where people with criminal warrants could visit for referrals to housing, health, and human services without risking arrest.
“That was, at that time, a very edgy approach, and the chief was willing to let one of his people staff the program,” says City Council member Nick Licata, who soon pushed for legislation to fund the project. “It was at a stage where Gil could have stopped it, but he allowed it to go forward.”
Although he isn’t going to legalize pot, drug czar Kerlikowske could push to lift the federal ban on funding needle exchanges, stop the medical-pot raids in California, overhaul spending on antidrug commercials, and enthusiastically seek funding for drug-treatment programs.
The larger brilliance of Obama’s pick for drug czar isn’t just that Kerlikowske is open to new strategies, but that he is first and foremost a cop. Nobody can claim that Kerlikowske is a public-health nut who doesn’t know the impact of drugs on the streets. Like many Americans, he agrees that drugs should be illegal. But he understands that both enforcement and public health have their place, and he’s willing to take a look at new approaches when enforcement alone has failed.
[via Andrew Sullivan]