Marijuana Policy Project may sue drug czar

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 22 2002 12:00 AM ET

The Marijuana Policy Project, a group that supports the use of medicinal marijuana to treat symptoms of diseases like AIDS, cancer, and glaucoma, may file a federal lawsuit against federal drug czar John Walters and the Office of National Drug Control Policy over Walters's lobbying efforts against marijuana ballot initiatives in Ohio, Nevada, and Arizona, FOXNews.com reports. MPP spokesman Bruce Mirken said Walters's lobbying visits were unethical and possibly illegal because his efforts were funded by federal tax dollars but were aimed at influencing state policies, which would violate the Constitution's separation of state and federal powers.

"There are legal and, frankly, moral questions here, particularly when you consider that he went through some effort in his campaign to demonize those who were running these initiatives while he runs his own campaign with an open checkbook of taxpayer money," Mirken said. Voters in all three states visited by Mirken rejected marijuana ballot initiatives on November 5, two of which dealt with marijuana use in general and did not focus specifically on medical marijuana issues.

Walters's office defended the drug czar's lobbying efforts, saying the visits to Ohio, Arizona, and Nevada were appropriate. "[Walters's job is] to go across the country and educate people about the dangers of drugs, and that's exactly what he did," said Jennifer deVallance, a spokeswoman for the ONDCP, which receives $20 billion a year to conduct antidrug efforts. She also said ONDCP welcomes a lawsuit filed by marijuana advocates. "That's fine, if that's how they want to spend their resources," she said. "If there's anything the government has plenty of, it's lawyers."