The drug most often linked to crime in the United States is marijuana, U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske said Thursday in a speech at the Urban Institute, a public policy research center in Washington D.C.
Kerlikowske's claim stemmed from a recent study conducted by his office that involved arrested individuals in five major U.S. cities.
Director of the White House' national drug-control policy, Kerlikowske dismissed calls for legalizing marijuana, calling it a "bumper-sticker approach" that should be avoided, McClatchy's Washington Bureau reported.
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The 2012 study found that in Sacramento, Calif., 80 percent of the adult males arrested for crimes tested positive for at least one illegal drug. Fifty-four percent of those arrested were found to have marijuana in their system.
Similar results were found in New York City, Chicago, Denver, and Atlanta.
In total, 1,736 urine samples were taken and 1,938 interviews were conducted with men who were arrested between the five cities.
In Chicago, 58 percent of men were found to have used marijuana while 37 percent of men arrested in Atlanta used cannabis. Percentages from Denver and NYC were not reported.
Among all five cities, Chicago was found to have the overall highest percentage of criminals with drugs in their system at 86 percent.
In four of the five cities, cocaine was the second most commonly used drug.
In Sacramento, however, methamphetamine was No. 2, having been detected in 40 percent of arrested individuals tested.
Kerlikowske's announcement was part of a push by the drug czar to encourage more treatment for those suffering from drug addiction as opposed to incarceration.
"That means addressing those factors that contribute to drug offenses, factors that all too often include the disease of addiction," Kerlikowske said at the Urban Institute. "It means abandoning simplistic bumper-sticker approaches, such as boiling the issue down to a ‘war on drugs’ or outright legalization."
Of the 60 percent of arrested individuals who tested positive for drug use in the study, 70 percent had never received any drug or alcohol treatment, according to Kerlikowske.
Marijuana legalization proponent Steve Fox, who is the national political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, rejected the study.
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"The drug czar should be ashamed of himself for attempting to deceive the American people in this manner," Fox said. "We could release a study tomorrow showing that 98 percent of arrestees in the United States drank water in the 48 hours before they engaged in criminal behavior. Does that mean that water causes crime? Fortunately, the American people are smarter than the drug czar thinks they are."
Prior to becoming President Barack Obama’s top drug policy adviser in 2009, Kerlikowske was the Seattle police chief. He has reportedly been a consistent opponent to drug legalization throughout his law enforcement career.
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