Like the stages people who experience grief due to a personal tragedy pass through, people concerned about modifying American drug policies have dialed through these five stages since Barack Obama was elected President of the United States:
1. Unbounded enthusiasm. Drug reform advocates, along with other progressives, were wild with anticipation when Barack Obama was elected President. Aside from his remarkable background and intelligence, he was extremely well-informed about drug reform initiatives -- including clean needle programs, discrepancies in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine (which punish minorities disproportionately), and noninterference with states that have enacted medical marijuana (MM) statutes. Moreover, he called the war on drugs an "utter failure."
2. Anxiety. During the run-up to Obama's selection of a Drug Czar, a name often mentioned was Jim Ramstad, former Congressman and a recovering alcoholic who opposed all major drug reforms (e.g., needle exchange, methadone maintenance). Why would Obama even consider such a Neanderthal, his supporters wondered. Where was he coming from in all of this, they asked themselves through sleepless nights.3. Cautious optimism. Instead, the President selected Gil Kerlikowske, who was not known for being out front in reforming drug policies as Seattle Police Chief, but who also didn't fight the city's needle exchange program and low priority on marijuana possession enforcement, nor Washington state's MM laws. Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance and the country's leading reform advocate, declared himself "cautiously optimistic"