Durbin Meets with Drug Czar Nominee Kerlikowske

Mexican Drug Cartels Top Agenda

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) met with Drug Czar nominee Gil Kerlikowske, today to discuss the role of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on the issues of Mexican drug cartels, crack-cocaine sentencing, and drug abuse prevention. In addition, Durbin expressed his hope that Kerlikowske will invigorate the agency under new leadership, implementing much-needed reforms including demand reduction, treatment, and prevention.


“America’s drug addiction wrecks families, neighborhoods and communities,” Durbin said. “While we must aggressively target Mexican drug cartels that pose a direct threat to our country, our national drug policy needs focus on the most effective methods to stem the demand for illegal drugs. Chief Kerlikowske has the right priorities and experience necessary to address the drug crisis in America”


The top issue on the agenda was the ongoing and bloody violence involving Mexican drug cartels. The violence, which took more than 6,000 lives last year, is partly the result of the alarming flow of drugs, guns and bulk cash across the U.S.-Mexico border.


Durbin and Kerlikowske discussed the need for better information sharing between U.S. and Mexican authorities, the use of new technologies and an increase in interdiction efforts on the border. As Drug Czar, Kerlikowske would oversee such strategies.


The two also discussed racial disparities in the criminal justice system – in particular, the difference between the sentencing guidelines for crack and powder cocaine. Durbin and Kerlikowske discussed the disparities and how they affect the criminal justice system as well as their implications on drug control policy.


The Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, or Drug Czar, coordinates the anti-drug programs of the federal government. When confirmed, Kerlikowske will produce the National Drug Control Strategy and direct anti-drug efforts for federal, state, and local authorities.


Mr. Kerlikowske has been chief of Seattle’s Police Department since 2000. He has served as the chief of police in Buffalo, NY and in two Florida cities. He was also the deputy director of the COPS program at the Department of Justice.


As chairman of both the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, Durbin has oversight of the ONDCP. Last week, Durbin chaired the first Senate hearing on Mexican drug cartel violence on the U.S. – Mexico border. He plans on holding a hearing next month on the issue of racial disparities in the criminal justice system.