May 15, 2009 CNN's American Morning: CHETRY: The nation's new drug czar says America is not fighting a war on drugs. And as Jim Acosta reports that d
May 16, 2009

May 15, 2009 CNN's American Morning:

CHETRY: The nation's new drug czar says America is not fighting a war on drugs. And as Jim Acosta reports that declaration signals a shift in the way that the nation will combat illegal drugs.

ACOSTA: John and Kiran, even though only one senator voted against the nomination of Gil Kerlikowske as the nation's new drug czar, the former Seattle police chief has his share of critics from inside his old department.


GIL KERLIKOWSKE, WHITE HOUSE DRUG CZAR: Our nation's drug problem is one of suffering.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Gil Kerlikowske may be called the drug czar, but he is just saying no to the term "the war on drugs."

In an interview with "The Wall Street Journal" Kerlikowske says - "Regardless of how you try to explain to people that it's a war on drugs or a war on a product, people see a war as a war on them, a war on individuals. And we're not at war with people in this country."

ROBERT WEINER, FORMER DRUG CONTROL POLICY SPOKESMAN: Mr. Kerlikowske is right on the mark that you can't have a war on drugs because if you do, it's a war on your own people.

ACOSTA: Drug policy experts say Kerlikowske's comments signal a new era, away from incarceration and toward treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're on thin ice.

ACOSTA: More drug court programs rewarding non-violent users for undergoing treatments and fewer raids of medicinal marijuana club in states where they are legal like California.

WEINER: Until we get a handle on drug treatment, we are not going to solve crime in America.

ACOSTA: Ever since Richard Nixon coined the term the war on drugs in the early '70s and even got an offer from Elvis Presley to join in on the fight, the U.S. has tried everything.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is your brain on drugs.


ACOSTA: Ads, to arms, to battle narcotics, Kerlikowske wants to change tactics. Before his confirmation, the former Seattle police chief acknowledged his own son has battled addiction.

KERLIKOWSKE: I have experienced the effects that drugs can have on our youth, our families and our communities.

RICH O'NEIL, PRESIDENT, SEATTLE POLICE OFFICERS GUILD: I was a little surprised when I heard that they were going to declare the war on drugs is over. Because here in Seattle, the war on drugs is certainly not over.

ACOSTA: But Seattle's police union warns Kerlikowske comes from a city where drug attitudes are more relaxed.

O'NEIL: It hasn't gotten any better in the eight years that the Chief Kerlikowske has been with us and many feel it has gotten worse.


ACOSTA (on camera): Every year advocates for legalizing pot descend on Seattle to hold their annual Hempfest, a festival where marijuana use is out in the open. Hempfest organizers have already put out a statement congratulating their chief of police on his new position - John and Kiran.

CHETRY: Jim Acosta for us this morning. Thanks.

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