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It's Time for the Drug Czar to Resign

News that ONDCP officials illegally campaigned for Republican congressional candidates has generated significant coverage this week, as well it should. Under the Hatch Act it is a crime for executive branch staff to engage in partisan political activity, which makes the drug czar a criminal if he wasn't already.

If you've been watching ONDCP for the past six years as I have, there's nothing surprising about any of this. Still, it's gratifying to see the drug czar's utter contempt for the law revealed for all to see.

Our friends at SSDP have created a petition demanding Drug Czar John Walters's resignation, which perfectly articulates how politics have guided Walters's actions throughout his tenure, and not just during campaign season:
* You've spent taxpayer money to campaign and lobby against citizen ballot initiatives and state legislation that would reform aspects of the ineffective War on Drugs.

* You've attempted to prevent Congress and the public from gaining access to a scientific evaluation of your "anti-drug" advertising campaign because you didn't like the results showing that the ads actually cause more, not less, teen drug use. Despite these alarming results, you've kept the dangerous ads on the air.

* You've spent millions of dollars a year spraying poisonous chemicals on the jungles and fields of Colombia in a failed effort to eradicate coca crops and prevent cocaine from entering or country. Yet while continuing to publicly advocate this eradication program, you admitted in a private letter to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) that cocaine prices on America's streets are dropping and its purity is increasing.

* You've actively pushed for the continued federal criminalization of seriously ill Americans suffering from cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis who use medical marijuana with their doctors' recommendations, even where it is legal under state law. In an affront to federalism and states' rights, ONDCP and the Food and Drug Administration released a politicized statement last year criticizing states with medical marijuana laws.
Frankly, it is an indictment of the press and the Congress that it took until July 2007 to discover that ONDCP is deeply corrupted. Only by stepping into the realm of partisan politics did ONDCP finally manage to earn the full-blown public relations crisis it has long deserved.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

 

Location: 
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Drug Policy Alliance Press Release: Hillary Clinton Vows to End Federal Raids on Medical Marijuana Patients

For Immediate Release: July 19, 2007 Contact: Bill Piper at (202) 669-6430 or Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton Vows to End Federal Raids on Medical Marijuana Patients Remarks Come on Eve of Vote in House of Representatives to Stop Bush Administration’s Heartless Raids During a presidential campaign stop in New Hampshire last Friday, Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton pledged to end federal raids on medical marijuana patients. The pledge came in response to a question posed by Len Epstein, a volunteer for Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana (GSMM). After telling Clinton, "Twelve states allow medical marijuana, but the Bush administration continues to raid patients," she responded, "Yes, I know. It's terrible." Epstein then asked, "Would you stop the federal raids?" Clinton responded, "Yes, I will." Her remarks echo remarks she made in May in which she suggested the federal government was being “excessive” in its dealing with medical marijuana patients. Twelve states, (Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) have adopted effective medical marijuana laws since 1996 - most of them by a vote of the people. Dozens of other states have adopted largely symbolic medical marijuana laws. The Drug Enforcement Administration, however, continues to arrest medical marijuana patients and their caregivers in those states. “Sen. Clinton has shown real leadership by pledging to stop federal medical marijuana raids,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “I hope her colleagues in the House follow her lead and vote to prohibit the Justice Department from arresting medical marijuana patients and their caregivers in those states where marijuana is legal for medical use.” Next week, the House of Representatives will vote on an amendment that would prohibit the Justice Department from undermining state medical marijuana laws. Last year, 163 representatives (75 percent of Democrats; 18 percent of Republicans) voted for a similar amendment. In addition to Clinton's remarks, every other Democratic presidential candidate has vowed to end federal medical marijuana raids - except for Sen. Barak Obama who indicated in June that the raids shouldn't be a priority for the Justice Department, but stopped short of pledging to end the raids completely if elected president. Earlier this year Gov. Bill Richardson became the first U.S. presidential candidate in history to sign legislation legalizing marijuana for medical use. On the Republican side, only Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Tom Tancredo, and former Gov. Tommy Thompson have indicated they would end the federal medical marijuana raids.
Location: 
NH
United States

Karl Rove and John Walters are Stealing Your Cash

For years President Bush has wasted taxpayer money on drug war programs that even his own analysts have concluded are ineffective. Now we know why. A recent Congressional investigation found that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) used taxpayer money to boost support for Republican candidates in 2006. U.S. Drug Czar John Walters and his deputies traveled to almost 20 events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the election. The taxpayer-financed trips were orchestrated by President Bush's political advisors and often combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that made the Republican candidates look good in their districts. Karl Rove commended ONDCP officials for "going above and beyond the call of duty" in making "surrogate appearances" in "the god awful places we sent them." Those "god awful places" included cities like South Bend, Indiana, my hometown. At the same time Walters was spending taxpayer money campaigning on behalf of vulnerable Republicans, President Bush was increasing funding for Walters' favorite programs, the anti-marijuana ad campaign and the student drug testing program. This kind of I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine arrangement is outrageous, even by Washington standards! Email Congress: http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/action/index.asp?step=2&item=31997&MS... And this corruption is just the tip of the iceberg. ONDCP has a long history of using taxpayer money to oppose drug policy reform. For instance, ONDCP bureaucrats traveled to New Mexico at least four times in 12 months -- at your expense -- to lobby state legislators to oppose the Drug Policy Alliance's medical marijuana legislation. Fortunately, the legislature passed our bill anyway and seriously ill people in New Mexico will finally have access to legal medical marijuana. We truly are in a David vs. Goliath fight here. ONDCP's annual budget is 67 times greater than ours; and while we rely upon the voluntary donations of supporters like you, the drug war extremists can dig into the taxpayers' purse any time they want. There are two things you can do to help level the playing field: 1) Email Congress (http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/action/index.asp?step=2&item=31997&MS...) and urge your representatives to pass legislation prohibiting ONDCP from using taxpayer money to lobby or influence elections. 2) Donate (https://secure3.ctsg.com/dpa/donation/index.asp?Item=8&MS=ONDCP-071807-aa) so we can rein in ONDCP and fight the politicians and special interests that benefit from the war on drugs. DPA has a strong track record on this issue. In 2003 we beat back an attempt in Congress by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) to allow the White House to use taxpayer money to run attack ads against pro-drug policy reform candidates and ballot measures. Our campaign garnered national media attention and helped make Rep. Souder a laughingstock in Congress. Three years later we turned the tables on Souder and passed a provision prohibiting ONDCP from ever using the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign to oppose pro-reform candidates or ballot measures. Now we have an opportunity to really go after the Drug Czar. With your support we can push for hearings on this latest drug war scandal, work to ensure that ONDCP staff are punished for any laws they broke, and close the campaign finance loophole that allows ONDCP to spend taxpayer money lobbying against drug policy reform. Please take a minute today to email Congress. And if you can, please donate to this important campaign. Thank you, Bill Piper Director of National Affairs Drug Policy Alliance
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

CA NORML Release: DEA Announces Federal Medical MJ Indictments in So. Cal - Business as Usual in DEAland?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 17, 2007 The DEA announced several indictments of medical cannabis operators in Southern California today. There was less to them than meets the eye, however, as they involved outstanding cases against dispensaries that had been previously raided or warned. Indicted were operators of: (1) Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay, which had been raided last March; (2) Compassionate Caregivers, once the largest chain of dispensaries in California, closed by federal action in 2005-6 (one former CC employee was also arrested for having opened a new facility); (3) Healing Nations Collective in Corona, which had been fighting efforts by local authorities to close it, and (in a raid yesterday) (4) Nature's Medicinal in Bakersfield, a popular, high-traffic facility that was raided in May. None of the arrestees had been targets of the LA DEA's recent landlord warning letter, nor were any forfeiture actions announced against landlords of the arrestees. One twist was that the charges named a doctor, who allegedly wrote recommendations for the Morro Bay store's patrons. Significantly, the doctor was said to have received a finders' fee for referrals, which would exempt him from the federal Conant injunction that protects doctors so long as they don't help patients procure cannabis illegally. Although the Morro Bay dispensary was alleged to have sold cannabis to minors, sources close to the case say all the minors were either over 18 or accompanied by parents. Although the Bakersfield dispensary was charged with making millions of dollars, DEA did not mention that it was paying payroll and sales taxes like other legal businesses. Today's announcements were obviously timed to "send a message" along with the landlord warning letters. That does not mean that the government is about to send forfeiture notices to all the landlords. To do so would invite more backlash than this bankrupt administration can afford. The DEA is picking off a few ripe targets in a desperate attempt to slow down the medical marijuana stampede. Every day brings more scientific evidence for the medical efficacy of cannabis. When the dust settles, the government will be forced to concede Americans' right to medicine. In the next week or two, Congress is expected to vote on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to halt federal funding for medical marijuana raids. TELL YOUR CONGRESS MEMBER TO END THE FEDERAL WAR ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=9998376 - D. Gieringer, Cal NORML
Location: 
CA
United States

Drug Policy Director Stirs Things Up, but Not the Way GOP Candidates Had Hoped

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/cq/2007/07/18/cq_3109.html

Lawmaker questions White House role in drug policy events

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Boston Globe
URL: 
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2007/07/18/lawmaker_questions_white_house_role_in_drug_policy_events/

Authorities allege medical marijuana stores profited from sales

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Jose Mercury News (CA)
URL: 
http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_6401647

The Difference Between Pot Growers and Terrorists

When Drug Czar John Walters announced last week that pot growers are terrorists, I thought he'd gotten a little carried away. But ONDCP's blog actually blockquotes the worst portion of the article in which these wild claims first appeared:
John P. Walters, President Bush's drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties.
Silly me. I thought maybe the reporter had taken Walters's statement out of context, but ONDCP calls it a "good story." Apparently, it is actually necessary to explain that pot growers aren’t terrorists and don’t want to help other terrorists kill lots of people.

Ok, let's begin. Basically, I think the difference between pot growers and terrorists is that pot growers grow pot and sell it to customers for profit, whereas terrorists build bombs and blow up innocent people for political and/or religious reasons.

Since pot growers are trying to make money and avoid law-enforcement, it isn’t in their interest to work with terrorists. Terrorists want to kill the pot grower's customers, and they also attract all sorts of unwanted attention from the military and various high-level federal agencies. Moreover, pot growers don't want to hurt or kill people. They sell pot, which is widely believed – correctly – to be relatively harmless. I've never heard of a pot grower who generally wanted to hurt people or who thought that what they were doing would cause mass casualties.

Some of the confusion here may stem from the fact that pot growers sometimes keep weapons around. This is actually to protect their valuable gardens from thieves, primarily wild animals. Incidents involving pot growers shooting people or fighting with police are incredibly rare. We know this, because if such a thing occurred, it would immediately be prominently displayed on the ONDCP blog and discussed endlessly by them. This has not occurred.

But perhaps the best evidence that pot growers don’t want to help terrorists is that pot growers never help terrorists. In the history of the U.S., no pot grower has ever been found helping terrorists get into the country or expressed any interest in doing so.

If Ed Rosenthal ever hijacks a plane and tries to fly it into the Sears Tower, I'll reconsider. But for now, I think it’s safe to conclude that pot growers and terrorists are two completely different things.

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United States

DPA Press Release: Drug Czar Campaigned for GOP While Bush Increased Budget for Failed Programs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 17, 2007 CONTACT: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 or Bill Piper (202) 669-6430 House Government Reform Chairman Finds Evidence White House Used Taxpayer Money to Boost Votes for Republicans in November 2006 U.S. Drug Czar Campaigned on Behalf of Vulnerable Republicans, While Bush Increased Funding for the Agency’s Controversial Anti-Marijuana Ad Campaign and Ineffective Student Drug Testing Program Leading Drug Policy Organization Calls for Prohibition on Using Taxpayer Money to Influence Voters The Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has found evidence that the nation’s drug czar and his deputies traveled to almost two dozen events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the 2006 elections. The taxpayer-financed trips were orchestrated by President George W. Bush’s political advisors and often combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that benefited the districts of the Republican members. A November 20, 2006 memo from Sara Taylor, the former White House Director of Political Affairs, summarizes the travel Drug Czar John Walters took at her request. Of the 26 events, all were with Republicans in close races. An agency e-mail sent the following day describes how Karl Rove commended his agency (and three cabinet departments – Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture) for “going above and beyond the call of duty” in making “surrogate appearances” at locations the e-mail described as “the god awful places we sent them.” That e-mail, as well as e-mails that followed, show that ONDCP officials were proud of the commendation they received from Mr. Rove and the political travel they took using taxpayer dollars. According to ONDCP’s liaison to the White House, Douglas Simon, “…our hard work…in preparing the Director and Deputies for their trips and events” allowed them to travel “thousands of miles to attend numerous events all across the country.” The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is expected to have hearings on the matter later this month. “This is shocking evidence that the Drug Czar, John Walters, and President Bush were scratching each other’s backs,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working for alternatives to the war on drugs. “Walters used taxpayer money to campaign for Republicans, while President Bush ignored the agency’s failures and increased funding for programs his own analysts determined were ineffective.” Numerous government-funded studies found that the government’s anti-marijuana ad campaign and student drug testing program are ineffective, yet the Bush Administration continues to request funding increases for those programs. The recently released memos and e-mails are only the latest evidence that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) uses taxpayer money to influence voters. During a 2000 federal lawsuit evidence surfaced showing that ONDCP created its billion dollar anti-marijuana TV ad campaign to influence voters to reject state medical marijuana ballot measures. The drug czar and his staff are also routinely accused of using taxpayer money to travel to states in order to convince voters and legislators to reject drug policy reform. During the 2002 election, for instance, ONDCP’s campaigning on a Nevada ballot initiative was so intense that the state’s Attorney General complained in a letter to the Nevada Secretary of State that, “it is unfortunate that a representative of the federal government substantially intervened in a matter that was clearly a State of Nevada issue. The excessive federal intervention that was exhibited in this instance is particularly disturbing because it sought to influence the outcome of a Nevada election.” “How long will the drug czar use taxpayer money to influence voters before Congress takes action,” asked Piper. (This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

When Oversight Means Oversight: Waxman Goes After Walters for Politicizing His Office

"Oversight" is a funny word. It has two meanings, one the opposite of the other. "Oversight" can mean watching over, supervising, or reviewing an action, a policy, or a process. Or it can mean the failure to do so, as in: "I meant to keep an eye on those guys, but I didn't. I guess that was an oversight on my part." When it comes to monitoring the activities of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and its head, drug czar John Walters, six years of Republican control of the Congress meant the only oversight that was practiced was of the latter variety. That was especially true when it came to looking into charges that Walters and ONDCP were using their drug-fighting mission to unfairly intervene in state and local ballot issues or legislation, or to seek partisan advantage for the Republican Party. What a difference an election can make. With the opposition Democrats now in control of both houses of Congress, the drug czar's office is joining other large hunks of the Bush administration in coming under tough congressional scrutiny. Today, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), head of the House Oversight and Government Operations Committee, released the following statement charging Walters and ONDCP with coordinating with the White House to schedule events with some 20 vulnerable Republican incumbents in the months leading up to the November 2006 elections:
Politicization of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy At the request of Sara Taylor, the former White House Director of Political Affairs, John Walters, the nation’s drug czar, and his deputies traveled to 20 events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the 2006 elections. The trips were paid for by federal taxpayers and several were combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that benefited the districts of the Republican members. A November 20, 2006, memo from Ms. Taylor summarizes the travel Director Walters took at her request. An agency e-mail sent the following day describes how Karl Rove commended the historically nonpartisan Office of National Drug Control Policy and three cabinet departments – Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture – for “going above and beyond the call of duty” in making “surrogate appearances” at locations the e-mail described as “the god awful places we sent them.” Other documents include an e-mail from the Interior Department to Ms. Taylor’s predecessor stating: “these folks need to be reminded who they work for and how their geographical travel can benefit this President.” Chairman Waxman wrote to Ms. Taylor to request her attendance at a Committee deposition on or before July 24 and her possible appearance at a Committee hearing on July 30. He also wrote to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, the Republican National Committee, Director Walters, and the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture requesting relevant documents.
There's a complete set of links to the documents mentioned at the House Oversight and Government Operations Committee web site linked to in the title of the Waxman release. It makes some interesting--and damning--reading. Waxman looks like he will schedule some hearings on this soon. Gosh, it sure is fun when we have someone on the oversight committee who actually practices the first definition of the word!
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