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Drug Czar Nominee Praised for Pragmatism

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Obama administration drug-czar nominee Gil Kerlikowske has both a family and professional history with drugs and addiction and has often steered a middle path in tackling the issues on a community level, the Washington Post reported March 24.

Kerlikowske, most recently chief of police in Seattle, worked as an undercover narcotics officer in his first law-enforcement job in Florida and has an adopted son who has struggled with addiction. In Seattle, he won praise for seeking compromise rather than confrontation in striking a balance between enforcing drug laws and accommodating medical-marijuana patients.

Kerlikowske wasn't a groundbreaker in calling for alternatives to arresting drug users, but has embraced the concept, including drug courts. Those who know him expect Kerlikowske to support a shift in national drug-control policy away from enforcement and towards treatment and prevention.

Called a thoughtful pragmatist, Kerlikowske is not a drug-policy expert; his expertise lies in community policing. Friends describe him as ambitious, and his career has progressed steadily despite occasional controversy. In Seattle, he was known for attending community meetings personally rather than sending delegates.

“Without a lot of fanfare or hoopla, Gil has made clear that, as far as the police are concerned, they are really to give attention to the prevention-rehabilitation side of things, as well as the enforcement side of things,” said retired University of Washington professor of public affairs Hubert Locke.

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