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Drug czar highlights link with marijuana, crime


Arrestees often tested positive for drugs

WASHINGTON – Marijuana is the drug most often linked to crime in the United States, the U.S. drug czar said Thursday, dismissing calls for legalization as a “bumper-sticker approach” that should be avoided.

Gil Kerlikowske, the White House director of national drug-control policy, said a study by his office showed a strong link between drug use and crime. Eighty percent of the adult males arrested for crimes in Sacramento, Calif., last year tested positive for at least one illegal drug. Marijuana was the most commonly detected drug, found in 54 percent of those arrested.

The study found similar results in four other cities: New York, Denver, Atlanta and Chicago.

Researchers found that marijuana was the most popular drug used by men who’d been arrested in all the cities, ranging from a low of 37 percent in Atlanta to a high of 58 percent in Chicago. Chicago also had the highest overall positive test results, with 86 percent of the men found to have at least one drug in their bloodstreams.

Cocaine ranked as the second most commonly found drug in all the cities, with the exception of Sacramento, where methamphetamine was No. 2, detected among 40 percent of those arrested.

Saying that drugs are fueling much of the crime in the United States, Kerlikowske used the study to make a pitch for more treatment.

He said that while more than 60 percent of those arrested in the study had tested positive for at least one drug, 70 percent of the arrestees had never received any drug or alcohol treatment. As a result, he said, U.S. drug policy should be approached from a public health standpoint, not merely as a criminal justice issue.

“That means addressing those factors that contribute to drug offenses, factors that all too often include the disease of addiction,” Kerlikowske said in a speech at the Urban Institute, a public policy research center in Washington. “It means abandoning simplistic bumper-sticker approaches, such as boiling the issue down to a ‘war on drugs’ or outright legalization.”

Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief, has consistently opposed legalization since he became President Barack Obama’s top drug policy adviser in 2009.

His position puts him at odds with two states, Washington and Colorado, that voted in November to legalize marijuana, a controlled substance that remains illegal under federal law.