By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com December 06 2002 12:00 AM ET
Medical marijuana activists last month announced that they plan to file a lawsuit against national drug czar John Walters for alleged illegal campaign activities, and now some are openly calling for his removal from office, MSNBC.com reports. The Marijuana Policy Project on Wednesday filed a formal complaint with the federal Office of Special Counsel accusing Walters of violating the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that bars many government employees from certain election activities. MPP contends that by campaigning against marijuana ballot initiatives in Nevada, South Dakota, Ohio, and Arizona--all of which were ultimately voted down on November 5--Walters violated the act's ban on campaign activities. MPP also sent a letter to the Nevada secretary of state's office accusing Walters of violating Nevada's campaigning laws.
MPP announced in late November that it was planning to file a federal lawsuit against Walters for using federal tax dollars to fund campaign activities to influence state-level policies, a violation of the Constitution's separation of state and federal powers.
Bruce Mirkin, MPP's director of communications, said Walters "broke the law by using the authority of his office to conduct a political campaign, and it was absolutely a campaign of lies and distortions designed to frighten people. At a certain point you have to say enough is enough. We will make the best of it as an opportunity to educate the public about why Mr. Walters is wrong, about why the things that he was saying were untrue, sometimes flagrantly so, and make the best of the situation that we can."
Legal analysts say the medical marijuana activists have little chance of persuading the Office of Special Counsel to dismiss Walters, because the Hatch Act specifically exempts from its provision Cabinet officials and others, like Walters, who are subject to Senate confirmation. "Walters is going to talk about drug legalization whether there's a ballot initiative or not," said spokesman Thomas Riley. "Even if that was campaigning, he's allowed to. The idea that he should say 'Well, I'm not going to go to this particular state because, gosh, they have a ballot initiative this fall' is ridiculous."