Article By Stve Elliott
Marijuana advocates held a protest outside the Seattle Times on Friday as Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske met with the newspaper's editors. The protesters, holding signs reading "Get With The Times" and "De-Fund The Drug Czar," said they believe the Drug Czar was sent to change the editorial's board's minds.
Kerlikowske asked for the meeting with the editorial board soon after the newspaper called for the legalization of marijuana in a recent editorial, reports KIRO 7.
In an interview with KIRO 7 Eyewitness News Anchor Chris Egert on Friday morning, Kerlikowske denied the White House sent him to Seattle just to speak with the editorial board. He said he was in Seattle for a previously scheduled event.
"I can be absolutely clear: the conspiracy theories continue to live, but frankly, that's one that is totally false," Kerlikowske said.
Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief, now heads the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). He is required by law to oppose any efforts at marijuana legalization.
"The President has been clear," Kerlikowske told KIRO 7. "The President opposes legalizing any drug, including marijuana."
Kerlikowske claimed "America has bigger things to worry about than the legalization of marijuana," or the idea of federal or state governments making tax money from legalized cannabis.
"If the future of our country and the future of Washington state is based upon how much money you can raise on selling marijuana, I'd say that is a very sad case," Kerlikowske said.
"Nothing from Kerlikowske's staff indicated that this was a special trip to try and change the edit board's mind," wrote Ryan Blethen of the Times on Friday. But, "It is true that the meeting was requested two days after our editorial ran in print on Feb. 20. It was published online Feb. 18."
"It is very possible that he or somebody on his staff read the edit and wanted to get him in front of us because he was going to be in town anyway," Blethen wrote.
"Fine with me. That is what we do," Blethen wrote. "We form opinions, publish the opinion, then get lobbied by politicians and special interest groups.
"It really doesn't matter if the White House sent Kerlikowske west to lean on us," Blethen wrote. "He is the Drug Czar and we want to hear from him. We meet with all sorts of people and groups we don't agree with."
The Drug Czar claims that marijuana use is linked to mental illness and other health problems.
"The marijuana today is much more toxic or more powerful," Kerlikowske claimed in an interview with Seattle TV station KING-5. "We know that drugged driving is a significant concern and even right here in the state of Washington, people picking up their phone, asking for help with a drug problem, it's about marijuana," Kerlikowske lied.
"The forces in pop culture that make light of the dangers of drug use, that there are no consequences for drug even, even promoting drug use as medicine [italics added], are profoundly disserving our youth," Kerlikowske said, reports Heather Bosch at KIRO Radio.
"I think that is a twisted and distorted assessment of what's actually going on in the drug policy reform arena," said another former Seattle police chief, Norm Stamper.
Stamper, who now works with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), told Seattle's Morning News that research shows there are medical uses for marijuana, and that the drug is not as dangerous as other illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.
Stamper said many cops share his view, but most remain silent about it.
"The problem that we have is that most of them will whisper their support for legalization," Stamper said.
"He's being less than honest with us, but that's in his job description," Stamper said of Kerlikowske's position as Drug Czar.
Patient advocacy group the Cannabis Defense Coalition blanketed parts of downtown Seattle with "De-Fund The Drug Czar" posters to mark Kerlikowke's visit to the Emerald City.
"Please also add your name to the petition to Defund the Drug Czar, and show your support for the Polis-Paul amendment to H.R. 1 which would eliminate the Office of National Drug Control Policy and save the government $1.5 billion over the next 10 years," said CDC spokesman Ben Livingston.
The Washington Legislature is considering whether to legalize marijuana sales through state liquor stores.
Article by Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town