The tenor of American diplomacy in the weeks since Mullen’s visit suggests that Cacho’s read on administration policy was right. In the last few weeks, the U.S. has sped up the delivery of $1.4 billion of military and surveillance equipment, and pledged to buy Black Hawk helicopters for the Mexican military. It has become de facto U.S. policy to characterize Calderon’s domestic deployment of the army as “courageous,” a plaudit recently used by Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got in on the action, stopping by a military training facility in Mexico City. At the end of that visit, she “then, dressed in a coral pantsuit, …climbed into the back of a pickup and sped off to tour a Black Hawk helicopter hangar,” USA Today reported.
On the homefront, too, it’s been a busy time for American drug policy. But the tone here is rather different. The President’s new budget proposal would allocate some $64 million to the country’s drug courts, making it possible for more users to get treatment rather than incarceration. Attorney General Eric Holder has also committed the Justice Department to halting raids on state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries. And confirming just how far domestic drug policy has shifted from punishment and policing, the man the administration has picked as its new "drug czar" is Seattle Police Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske, who is famously not in favor of hard-line drug policies.
Kerlikowske’s stance is that fighting supply is ultimately ineffective, and that "our nation's drug problem is one of human suffering." Medical marijuana advocates in Washington State see his nomination as something of a coup. Joanna McKey, co-founder of Seattle’s Green Cross medical marijuana dispensary, worked with Kerlikowske’s office to amicably resolve neighborhood clinic complaints. When she heard of Kerlikowske’s federal appointment, her first thought was, “we are blessed,” she says. To Douglas Hiatt, a Seattle-area medical-marijuana lawyer, the selection of his chief for drug czar signals a new open-mindedness when it comes to domestic drug laws. “He’s a very pragmatic guy,” Hiatt says. “He’s not going to continue with policies that don’t work. He’s got enough intellectual integrity that he’s going to try to solve problems and not parrot useless nonsense.”
Given the softening domestic climate on marijuana, some Southwestern officials have wondered whether fighting the drug is even worth it. In December, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard suggested that marijuana’s illicit status is responsible for some of the cartel-related violence seeping into his state. His logic was simple: according to his office, 65 percent of the cartels’ revenue comes from smuggling marijuana, a business that’s only profitable because it’s illegal. Though Goddard, a Democrat, is careful to note that he doesn’t support legalization, he’s been calling loudly for a reexamination of our federal and state marijuana laws, especially given that marijuana looks like “health food” compared to products like meth, he says.