Lawmakers Rebuff White House in Drug Control Bill

Lawmakers Rebuff White House in Drug Control Bill
Posted by CN Staff on June 06, 2003 at 23:34:32 PT
By Todd Zwillich 
Source: Reuters 
Lawmakers approved national drug control legislation Thursday after stripping out provisions allowing the White House to use federal dollars to campaign in the media against efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. The House Committee on Government Reform voted to approve the strategy by a near-unanimous vote, a week after a disagreement over how to use the national $1 billion in anti-drug media campaign funds delayed its consideration. 
The bill originally contained language allowing the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to buy anti-medical marijuana advertisements with money from the national youth anti-drug media campaign. White House officials and many Republican lawmakers supported the language as a way to aid ONDCP director Jon P. Walters in his ongoing campaign against state referenda and laws permitting marijuana distribution or use for some medical patients. But Democrats objected to the provision, arguing that it would allow the White House to use taxpayer money to wage partisan campaigns against candidates or initiatives it did not agree with. Congress currently plans to spend some $200 million per year on youth-targeted anti-drug ads over the next five years. Lawmakers also struck a provision that would have allowed the White House to deny some federal drug enforcement aid in jurisdictions that have supported medical marijuana initiatives. "There was a strong consensus among members that drug control should not be a partisan issue," said Rep. Mark E. Souder, R-Ind., who helped craft the compromise with Democrats. Nine states currently permit marijuana use for patients with a doctor's prescription or have relaxed penalties for possession of the drug. Walters has aggressively campaigned against the initiatives, saying that they threaten to undermine federal drug laws against marijuana distribution and use. His opposition stoked challenges from marijuana activists, who filed lawsuits accusing him of breaking federal laws that ban administration officials from participating in state political campaigns. The federal Office of Special Counsel ruled earlier this week in Walters' favor in the case, essentially clearing the way for him and other drug control officials to continue campaigning against medical marijuana efforts. Kevin Sabet, an ONDCP spokesman, said that the removal of permission to use media campaign money against medical marijuana would not slow Walters' efforts. "We don't need the media campaign to fight legalizations," he said. "The victory for (the White House) is that they have another billion in taxpayer money to waste," said Steve Fox, a lobbyist for Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-medical marijuana group. The bill must now go the full House for approval. Source: Reuters HealthAuthor: Todd Zwillich Published: Friday,  June 06, 2003Copyright: 2003 Reuters Related Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project Rosenthal's Trial Pictures & Articles Compromise Reached on Advertising Protest Drug Czar's Campaigning To Move Anti-Medicinal Pot Funds
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on June 09, 2003 at 12:06:37 PT
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House Panel OKs Drug Czar Reauthorization By Juliana Gruenwald, CongressDaily June 9, 2003 After supporters agreed to alter a handful of controversial provisions in the bill, the House Government Reform Committee approved legislation Thursday that would reauthorize the drug czar's office for five years.The panel approved the measure (H.R. 2086) by voice vote after supporters were forced May 22 to delay action in order to resolve concerns over several provisions in the bill. The law authorizing the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which sets policies aimed at curbing the supply and demand for illegal drugs, is set to expire on Sept. 30.The committee adopted, by voice vote, a substitute version of the bill offered by its sponsor, Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., chairman of the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources Subcommittee.The substitute changed a provision in the original version of H.R. 2086 that some Democrats and drug legalization supporters said would allow the drug czar to engage in partisan political activities and to use government funding to pay for ads against ballot measures favoring the legalization of drugs.Souder, however, said the provision was "blown wildly out of proportion by [drug legalization supporters] ... and some in the media to suggest that the committee's intention was to permit the use of the media campaign for activities that everyone in this room would agree are wholly improper and partisan. That was never my intention or the intention of the bill."The new language included in the substitute would explicitly ban such activity. Souder said the bill also now includes a provision that would authorize the drug czar to conduct advertising aimed at preventing children from using marijuana, which he said was the intent of the original language in the bill.The substitute also addressed concerns raised by the current drug czar, John Walters, and others with language in the original bill that would require the drug czar's office to use 80 percent of funding for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, which is administered by the drug control office, on advertising. This requirement was reduced to 77 percent. The substitute also removed a provision capping non-advertising related media expenditures at 3 percent.The substitute also does not include another controversial provision in the original bill that critics said would have allowed the drug czar to shift resources away from states that have medical marijuana laws.While praising the changes, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the committee's top Democrat, said he was still concerned that the bill does not address a requirement in current law that the drug czar oppose efforts to legalize medical marijuana, saying the requirement is a "distraction" that forces the drug czar to take time away from more important issues."For us to mandate it, it's a diversion and a distraction," Waxman said.Waxman offered an amendment, which was rejected by voice vote, that would have eliminated the requirement that the drug czar actively oppose efforts to legalize medical marijuana. Instead, it would give the drug czar the discretion to decide whether to oppose such efforts.In opposing the amendment, Souder noted that current law gives the drug czar discretion in how actively to oppose such efforts. He also added that he believes that the nation's chief spokesman against the use of illegal drugs should speak out against any effort that would violate federal law."The question is do we want a federal drug policy or a series of state and local drug policies," said Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va. "It seems to me we want a national drug policy."Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., offered and then agreed to withdraw an amendment that would have directed the drug czar's office to submit its ads to Congress 30 days before releasing them to the public. Given the amount of money being spent on such advertisements, Congress should have a chance to evaluate the ads before they are made public, she said.But Souder opposed the amendment, saying lawmakers would be tempted to try to meddle with the ads or may leak them to the public, possibly hampering their effectiveness.Maloney, however, noted that Republicans forced changes to ads related to the 2000 census after having a chance to see them before they were made public.After several minutes of debate, Maloney agreed to withdraw the amendment after Davis offered to work on a compromise that might provide lawmakers with a more limited opportunity to view the ads before they go public. The bill is likely to go to the House floor before Congress leaves for its Fourth of July recess, a committee aide said.
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