Newsbrief: Drug Czar Flack Barthwell Steps Down in Senate Bid 7/16/04

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Andrea Barthwell stepped down as a deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the drug czar's office ( on July 9, clearing the way for her to make a run to be the Republican nominee in the November US Senate contest. Barthwell is part of a growing field of hopefuls to replace Jack Ryan, who won the party's nomination in the spring, but stepped down in the wake of accusations he attempted to persuade his now ex-wife, actress Geri Ryan, to perform sex acts in front of others at sex clubs.

Federal law prohibited her from campaigning while holding the ONDCP post, she told the Associated Press. "I'm interested, I want to be considered and I will make myself available to those who make that decision," she said, adding that she was keeping her options open.

Andrea Barthwell
In little more than two years at the drug czar's office, Barthwell has emerged as a vigorous proponent of prohibitionist policies such as random student drug testing and a staunch foe of medical marijuana. She testified against a California bill that would ban random drug testing last month.

She has also been, along with her boss, drug czar John Walters, a lead Bush administration attack dog against grassroots initiatives, especially those involving medical marijuana. She took time off from her other duties last month to criticize this year's Oregon medical marijuana initiative, OMMA2 ( "No family, no community, no city and no state is better off when it makes drugs more available to its young people with these ridiculous propositions," she argued.

But Barthwell hasn't always been on the wrong side of the issues. Along with Walters, she spoke out against Virginia legislation limiting the location of methadone maintenance clinics. Antipathy toward anti-prohibitionist measures combined with sympathy for drug treatment measures is a natural outgrowth of Barthwell's career. Before joining the drug czar's office, Barthwell was president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (, and before that the suburban Chicago physician headed two major Chicago drug treatment providers, the BRASS Foundation and the Human Resources Development Institute.

Whoever Illinois Republicans choose to replace Ryan will face a tough, come-from-behind campaign against rising Democratic Party star Barack Obama, the half-Kenyan, half-Kansan, Harvard-educated charmer. While some party activists tried unsuccessfully to tempt former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka into running, Barthwell is essentially a political unknown -- last Friday, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) told the Associated Press, "Who? Don't know her."

Barthwell's prospects in what is admittedly a very weak field were dimmed further this week when an internal inquiry at ONDCP found that she had engaged in "lewd and abusive" behavior at a drug czar Christmas party. She was accused of -- and does not deny -- making salacious remarks about the sexual orientation and tastes of one of her employees.

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Issue #346, 7/16/04 In the Wake of Blakely: Senate Committee Hearing Seeks Sentencing Fix, 2nd Circuit Seeks Quick Supreme Court Hearing | Bryan Epis Appeal On Hold Pending Supreme Court Raich Review | Movie Review: Maria Full of Grace | Nevada Secretary of State Says No to Three Ballot Initiatives, Including Marijuana Measure -- Sponsors Go to Court | MPP Pulls Out of Arkansas Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign -- Locals Vow to Continue Ballot Qualifying Effort | Newsbrief: Delaware General Assembly Calls for Repeal of Higher Education Act Anti-Drug Provision | Newsbrief: Fiji Marijuana Farmers Resist Police Raids | Newsbrief: Drug Czar Flack Barthwell Steps Down in Senate Bid | Newsbrief: Iran Allows Harm Reduction Efforts in Heroin Fight (Unofficially, Of Course) | Newsbrief: Hiring Freeze at Federal Bureau of Prisons, Layoffs Possible Next Year | Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor Indicted -- Could Face Death Sentence | Newsbrief: 20th Anniversary of Law Raising Drinking Age to 21 | This Week in History | Media Scan: Reason on Kerry, Daily Camera on New Prohibition | Job Opportunity: Communications Assistant, Drug Policy Alliance, NYC | The Reformer's Calendar

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