Monday, December 08, 2008

Drug Czar Controversy

By John Tierney (from the New York Times blog TierneyLab)

Some researchers in substance-abuse treatment and advocates for the medical use of marijuana marijuana are alarmed at reports that Representative Jim Ramstad, a Republican from Minnesota, is a candidate to become the next drug czar — the director of the office of National Drug Control Policy. In a joint letter to President-elect Barack Obama, coordinated by Andrew Tatarsky, the past president of the division of addictions of the New York State Psychological Association, dozens of academics and other professionals in substance-abuse treatment write:
This country needs a drug czar who supports evidence-based policies and one whowill make decisions based on science, not politics or ideology. We strongly believe that Congressman Ramstad is not that person.
Rep. Ramstad voted in 1998 in favor of making permanent the federal funding ban on syringe exchange. In 2000, he voted to prohibit the District of Columbia from spending its own locally-raised funds on syringe exchange programs, and in 2007, he voted against lifting the same DC ban, despite decades of research showing that syringe exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, save lives, save money, and do not increase drug use. Representative Ramstad has also consistently opposed congressional efforts to stop the arrest of patients with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses who use medical marijuana to ease their pain and suffering in states where it is legal.

Similar concerns have been raised in another joint letter, coordinated by the Drug Policy Alliance endorsed by more than three dozen other public-health, criminal-justice and drug-treatment organizations. They write to Mr. Obama:

You showed strong leadership on the campaign trail by pledging to lift the federal funding ban on syringe exchange programs, end the excessive federal law enforcement raids aimed at medical marijuana patients, and eliminate the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. . . We urge you to nominate for drug czar someone with a public health background, who is committed to reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases, open to systematic drug policy reform, and able to show strong leadership on the issues you believe in.
You can read the rest of the article here.

At the end he writes, "What do you think of Mr. Ramstad as drug czar? Do you have any other nominees for the job? Or other advice for Mr. Obama on drug policy?"

Several readers had great comments. One suggested changing the title Drug Czar to the "Secretary of Narcotics Policy". That sounds so much more civilized. Kuchinch fwas mentiond as a posibility for this post, as well as Ron Paul. One person suggested Dr. Tatarsky. There are lots of better choices than Ramstad. If you agree, go to and let Mr. Obama know.


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