You have an opportunity right now to influence one of the most important choices President-elect Obama will make. The media is reporting that he is considering nominating Republican Congressman James Ramstad (MN/3rd) to be his “drug czar”. It’s easy to understand why. Rep. Ramstad is in recovery from substance abuse (alcohol) and has a long track record in support of increasing access to drug treatment. Ramstad, however, is still mostly wedded to the failed punitive drug war policies of the last 30 thirty years.

For instance, Ramstad has voted against medical marijuana five times. He has voted against making sterile syringes more available to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS three times. Even though his colleagues are increasingly supporting sentencing reform, including eliminating the crack/powder sentencing disparity, he hasn’t stood up on the issue.

In other words, Rep. Ramstad does not appear to be committed to the kind of change President-elect Obama has said he will bring to our nation’s drug policies. 

Obama needs to hear from you, and is making it easy for you to contact him through his website. Will you take a minute today to urge Obama to choose a drug czar who will champion reform?

The Drug Policy Alliance believes our nation’s next drug czar should be chosen based on the following criteria:

  1. Are they committed to enacting and supporting evidence-based policies? ONDCP should make decisions based on science, not politics or ideology.
  2. Are they committed to reducing the harms associated with both drugs and punitive drug laws? We need a new bottom line for U.S. drug policy.
  3. Do they think drug use should be treated as a health issue not a criminal justice issue? To paraphrase former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, we need a surgeon general not a military general or police officer.
  4. Do they welcome and encourage debate and research? We need a drug czar who is open-minded and willing to consider every alternative.
  5. Are they committed to reducing the number of nonviolent offenders behind bars? Our country’s next drug czar should be fully committed to major sentencing reform.

Who President-elect Obama chooses as his drug czar will affect everyone. DPA is working over-time to influence that decision but we need your help. Please let Obama know that you want him to nominate a drug czar who supports marijuana law reform, syringe availability and treatment-instead-of-incarceration. 


Bill Piper
Director, National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance Network


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