Thursday, December 05, 2002

THE DRUG LOBBY: The Marijuana Policy Project, a principal sponsor of Question 9, the unsuccessful ballot measure which would have legalized possession of up to three ounces of marijuana in Nevada, wants to get federal drug czar John Walters fired. The group makes a credible argument Walters was lobbying when he made two trips to Nevada this year to urge people to vote down the measure. (I editorialized about them here.) Lobbying by a federal employee is prohibited by the Hatch Act. The group is also asking Nevada's secretary of state to fine Walters $5,000 for failing to file a "campaign report" with election officials.

MPP has petitioned the federal Office of Special Counsel to strip Walters of his duties and bar him from future government employment.

The response from Washington? "It's a Cheech and Chong interpretation of the law," Walters flack Tom Riley told the Review-Journal. "Part of the description of the job description is to fight drug legalization."

The Office of National Drug Control Policy does not conduct research. Nor does it enforce laws or issue regulations. It's little more than a multimillion-dollar, taxpayer-financed propaganda mill for drug warriors, paying a cadre of wonks and writers top dollar to churn out speeches, op-eds and advertising matter. Walters should not just be sacked; the entire agency ought to be shuttered. Permanently.

The complaint is likely to go nowhere, and that's too bad. As Dane Walters of the Initiative and Referendum Instititute told the R-J, it's unusual for a federal official to become so intimately involved in state ballot drives. The best we might hope for is that some sort of guidelines would emerge that limit the activities of federal officials in state political campaigns. Of course, that's partly why the Hatch Act was passed in the first place.

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