New Drug Czar Nominated

From the Marijuana Policy Project <>

Please share this memo with family and friends who live in your state.

TO: California residents

FROM: Chris Hammond, MPP director of government relations

DATE: Friday, October 5, 2001

SUBJECT: Please oppose John Walters as Bush's drug czar.

The Marijuana Policy Project strongly opposes the nomination of
John Walters as director of the White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy. Walters' position on marijuana prohibition makes him a
very undesirable candidate for this office. For example, in 1996
Walters wrote that "the federal government urgently needs to restore
leadership to the fight against marijuana ... federal marijuana
penalties need to be stiffened. ..." Considering that federal law
already provides for a one-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine for
possession of a single marijuana cigarette, it is hard to envision
what Walters has in mind.

Walters has also spoken out against medical marijuana. After the
passage of Proposition 215 in California in 1996, Walters was the
first person to suggest that physicians should be arrested and their
licenses revoked for recommending medical marijuana. In response to
former drug czar Barry McCaffrey's promise to collect data on the
"harms" that would result from the new medical marijuana law, Walters
said that "one thing they want to do is watch the body count in
California -- why don't they prevent the body count in California?"
Presumably Walters did not intend his comments to be taken literally,
but even the suggestion that medical marijuana could be lethal
illustrates the hyperbolic extremism of his position on the issue.

It is important to take action now to thwart approval of Walters'
nomination. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold
hearings on the nomination on October 10. You are receiving this
alert because California Sen. Dianne Feinstein serves on the Judiciary

Stopping Walters at the committee stage of the nomination process is
our best chance to block this nomination. If the Judiciary Committee
votes to approve Walters' nomination, a vote before the full Senate
will be the next stage in the proceedings. (The House of
Representatives plays no role in the nomination process.)

Please help derail Walters' ride to the office of drug czar by taking
the following actions:

If you are affiliated or have influence with any local or state
organization that could be convinced to oppose the nomination, please
contact Bill Piper at The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation
(ph. 202-537-5005, e-mail MPP has been working
with TLC-DPF to add organizations to a sign-on letter opposing the
Walters nomination.

Visit the DRCNet Web site at to
send a pre-written letter of opposition to your two U.S. senators.

Please submit one of the following letters-to-the-editor to your local

(a) Walters will stand in the way of drug policy reform

At a time when public attitudes are changing about the war on
drugs, a member of the old guard has been nominated for the key
position of drug czar. John Walters' extensive record on drug
control issues shows him to be a questionable candidate to bring
drug policy forward into the new millennium.

While Americans are turning towards harm reduction approaches to
drug use, and focusing more on treatment than incarceration for
nonviolent drug offenders, Walters champions a criminal justice
approach that promises to burst the seams of our already
overburdened pr
ison system.
While the vast majority of Americans (73% according to Gallup and
Pew Research Center polls) supports making an exception to current
law for seriously ill people to have access to medical marijuana,
Walters has advocated arresting doctors and stripping them of
their licenses for recommending marijuana.

In a time of growing concern about racial disparities in the drug
war, Walters says it is an "urban myth" that "the criminal justice
system is unjustly punishing young black men." This is despite
the fact that Blacks make up only 13% of the drug-using
population but make up more than 70% of those who do prison time
for drug offenses.

Walters is also an ardent supporter of the shoot-down policy in
Peru that recently resulted in the deaths of an American
missionary and her child.

There is a growing consensus that current approaches to the drug
problem need mending. John Walters is likely to give us only more
of the same misguided policies we've been pursuing for 30 years.
I hope that Senators Feinstein and Boxer see this and vote against
Walters' nomination.

(b) Walters wants to waste resources arresting marijuana users

The Senate will soon be deciding on the nomination of John Walters
for the position of drug czar. I urge everyone who is interested
in drug law reform to ask our two senators to oppose Walters'
nomination, as his record shows him to be from the old school when
it comes to the war on drugs.

Walters rejects a health-centered approach to substance abuse, and
he insists on a continuation and expansion of the failed policy of
trying to arrest our way out of the drug problem. He embraces a
puritanical approach to substance use, claiming rehabilitation
is not the primary aim of arresting drug users, but that arrest
and imprisonment serve primarily to punish people for their moral

Walters calls for an expansion of the war on marijuana users,
even though arrest rates for marijuana have climbed drastically in
the last 10 years. In 1999, there were over 700,000 marijuana
arrests nationwide, 88% of them for simple possession. Especially
in the face of the threat of attacks from terrorists, expanding
the fight against good citizens who happen to smoke marijuana
seems like a terrible waste of resources.

When it comes to people with a real drug problem, Walters
dismisses the importance of increasing the availability of
treatment programs. Even former drug czar Barry McCaffrey said on
NBC's Meet the Press that Walters is "focused too much on
interdiction" and "needs to educate himself on prevention and

The mood in America is one of seeking new strategies to address
the drug problem. John Walters promises to bring us only more of
the same.

(c) John Walters is not the right person for the job of drug czar

The U.S. Senate is about to consider the nomination of John
Walters for the position of drug czar. His record on drug control
issues shows he is not the right person for the job.

Walters has belittled the need for greater efforts in the areas of
prevention and drug treatment, and he has continually emphasized a
strategy of increasing arrests and prison sentences as a response
to drug abuse.

He has dismissed valid concerns that the war on drugs is
prosecuted in a racially discriminatory manner, claiming it is an
"urban myth" that Blacks are treated unfairly by the criminal
justice system. He sees no problem with the fact that a
black drug user is 13.4 times as likely to be sent to jail as a
white drug user.

Walters wants to devote even more resources to arresting marijuana
users, when arrest rates have already more than doubled over the
last 10 years. He also opposes medical marijuana --
and was the
first person to suggest that doctors should be arrested for
recommending marijuana, a strategy that was later ruled
unconstitutional by a federal court.

Across the nation, Americans have been voicing the opinion that we
need to change strategies in dealing with drug issues. John
Walters and his "business as usual" approach to the war on drugs
represents where we've been and what we've been doing wrong. He is
certainly not the right candidate to head the Office of National
Drug Control Policy at a time when Americans want to explore other

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