Newsbrief: Drug Czar, Media Campaign Well-Positioned to Influence November Elections 4/30/04

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With marijuana "regulation" initiatives on state ballots in Alaska and Nevada and a local question in Oakland, medical marijuana going before the voters in Arkansas, Oregon, and Detroit, and Seattle-style de-prioritization initiatives on local ballots in Tallahassee and Oakland, there is little question that pot will be a political issue in various spots this fall. The last time that happened, the Office of National Drug Control Policy ( and its head, drug czar John Walters went all out to defeat marijuana reform efforts.

This year, thanks to a pair of rulings in the federal bureaucracy and a complacent Congress, Walters, ONDCP, and their $200 million a year anti-marijuana media campaign have the green light to do it again. After Walters helped shoot down its 2002 Nevada initiative by making in-state appearances against it, the Marijuana Policy Project (, filed a complaint with the White House Office of Special Counsel charging that Walters' activities violated Hatch Act prohibitions against involvement in election by federal employees. Sorry, said the Special Counsel in May 2003, initiatives are nonpartisan and don't elect individuals to office, so Walters is free to campaign (

Then, Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican from Texas, complained to the General Accounting Office (GAO) about Walters' shenanigans. The drug czar and his underlings were illegally spending federal funds on "publicity or propaganda," Paul complained. Not so, the GAO reported back last month. The prohibition on spending to influence elections only applies to "legislation pending before Congress." What's more, they were okay because they were "made in furtherance of ONDCP's statutory responsibilities."

As a result, wrote drug war muckraking freelancer Dan Forbes in a piece published on last week, "the White House drug czar [has] full license to try to influence the vote on state ballot initiatives, amendments, and referenda." Unless the Senate, which is considering the ONDCP reauthorization bill already passed by the House, intercedes to address the contradiction between ONDCP's congressionally-mandated responsibility to fight "legalization" and the federal prohibition on interfering in state elections, Walters will be free to go.

As Forbes put it, "[T]he drug czar and his entourage can continue traipsing the country at will swaying the votes of those who pay for his trip, the way paved by another $2 billion in ad time and space trumpeting -- not the status quo -- but actually an ever-harsher war on drugs."

Oh, yes, those ads. They're supposedly aimed at preventing teen marijuana use, but half of them are aimed at parents, "otherwise known as voters," as Forbes put it. Citing a University of Pennsylvania study of the drug czar's media campaign released in December, Forbes reports that, oddly enough, after having nearly vanished from the air in August 2002 the ads shot up sharply in late October, just before election day, before returning to low levels the week after the election.

Anyone up for an October ad blitz from the drug czar? It's nothing to do with influencing elections, you understand; it's all about saving the kids.

Read Dan Forbes' article, "GAO Green-Lights White House Interference in Elections," online at:

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Issue #335, 4/30/04 Announcing: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War" -- New Compendium by Sheriff Masters Features David Borden and Numerous Other Thinkers on Drug Policy | Peruvian Coca Growers' "March of Protest and Sacrifice" Reaches Lima as Government Seeks to Elevate Alternative Leadership | Like a Phoenix from the Ashes: Vancouver's "Pot Block" Rebounds from Weekend Arson Fire | There You Go Again, Joe: CASA Report Uses Suspect Science to Hype Teen Marijuana Menace | NORML 2004: Stroup to Retire, Lobbying the Hill, Initiative Excitement, Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: Drug Czar, Media Campaign Well-Positioned to Influence November Elections | Newsbrief: FBI Was Looking for Dope, Not Terrorists, 9/11 Commission Says | Atlantic City Announces Needle Exchange Plans | Newsbrief: European Union Blocks Cannabis Exhibition | Newsbrief: New Web Site Compiles Judicial Opposition to Drug War | Newsbrief: Canadian Couple Appalled at Being Treated Like, Well, New Yorkers | Newsbrief: Albuquerque Cops Block 4-20 Event by Closing Park | Newsbrief: Colorado Drug Task Force Sued Over Methamphetamine "Decontamination" Public Stripping | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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