Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock: Who Will Be Obama’s Pick For ‘Drug Czar’?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director December 20, 2008

    Is saving the Drug Czar nominee as the last cabinet pick indicative of the low priority assigned by the incoming Obama administration to the so-called ‘war on drugs’?


    With the entire cabinet nominated (save for US Ambassador to the United Nations and director of the Central Intelligence Agency), who is President–elect Obama going to nominate as director of the Office Of National Drug Control Policy (a.k.a. ‘Drug Czar’).

    To date, Obama and Co. have prioritized the cabinet nominations of:

    Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Homeland Security, Attorney General, Secretary of Interior, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Environmental Protection Agency, Secretary of Veteran Affairs, National Security Adviser, Director of National Intelligence, Director of National Economic Council, Director of Securities and Exchange Commission, US Trade Representative and Director of Office of Management and Budget.

    But no Drug Czar (or Czarina)!

    Obama told the media yesterday that his entire cabinet would be nominated before he is to begin his last semi-sane holiday break this week with his family. But as of 10AM this morning (eastern), there has been no nominee announced for ‘Drug Czar’.

    Hmmmmm. One wonders why not?

    Looks like one reputed nominee for Drug Czar, retiring Republican congressman Jim Ramstad of Minnesota is getting hung up in the political vetting process. Some in the media and in drug policy reform inform NORML that Atlanta police chief Richard J. Pennington might emerge as the potential nominee. Some speculate that current Drug Czar transition team leader, Dr. Don Vereen, might pull a ‘Cheney’ and offer himself up as the best person to head the ONDCP.

    Whatever the case and whomever the nominee, is the ONDCP nominee and their staff going to closely adhere to Obama’s stated goal that health (and environmental) policy-making in his administration, unlike the current Bush White House, will be guided by contemporary and credible science—and not ideology or politics?

    In Obama’s now weekly radio address, he asserted this morning that science and rational thinking is going to instruct much of his decision-making in the realms of education, public health and environmental protection. To demonstrate such, this morning Obama nominated two prominent scientists—not political hacks—to fill important science policy-making roles in his new administration (Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

    “Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States.”
    -President-elect Barack Obama (December 20, 2008)

    NORML certainly hopes that Obama’s professed support for science over political ideology logically extends to repairing and overhauling the country’s totally flawed and decidedly unscientific approach in administering a functional and economical criminal justice system—fueled in large part by antiquated and misguided illicit drug laws, notably the abject failure of 70 plus years of cannabis prohibition laws.

    In the interim, please join me (and thousands of other drug policy reform supporters), with a bit-of-tongue-in-cheek, in advancing Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann, Ph.D as Obama’s next Drug Czar. Now that is change I can believe in!

    Who President-elect Obama nominates for Drug Czar I believe will strongly demonstrate whether or not he genuinely believes in science as a guiding principle in replacing failed, feckless, racist and politically expedient law enforcement efforts to ‘control’ drugs with, ultimately, effective, commonsense, scientific and public health-based alternatives to America’s failed war on some drugs.

    69 responses to “Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock: Who Will Be Obama’s Pick For ‘Drug Czar’?”

    1. Eric says:

      At least Bill Richardson is in his cabinet…That is one person that is on our side…

    2. Ras Kwame says:

      It is going to take the people that know the truth to make noise by the continued education of those who do not know, because the few that do is not enough to end this racist drug war. There is alot of money invested in the war on durgs somehow the people must see that there is more money in the responsible use of the entire cannabis tree. Food clothing shelter medicine fuel and thousands more uses. Can I make a living on educating the people? I have the information in my head and heart.

    3. Alan says:

      What we must do is find a way to expose all the lobbying groups–like Big Pharama, the alcohol industry, and the Prison Industrial Complex–that are bribing our politicians to keep the status quo with regard to cannabis, and publish the numbers. Then, we
      need to put pressure on THEM.
      I would personally like to know how Cannabis gets a Schedule One rating, yet Big Phara produces dronnabinol (trade name Marinol), which is a pill made of 100% pure synthetically created T.H.C. and has it as a Schedule 3!!! Talk about hypocrisy! How is this possible? And this illustrates the nature of the problem–if NORML had millions to spend in lobbying efforts, maybe we would get somewhere…
      People always site how much the drug war costs..But remember, it’s costing US, not THEM. And I think people don’t realize how much money the government makes off prohibition, and all the forces that want it to remain as it is–those I have mentioned, plus the DEA, and ONDCP, the Drug Czars–and all the illegal drug money that gets laundered through our banks.
      Many people have also pointed out and proved that one of the main jobs of the C.I.A. is to make sure as much drug money as possible is laundered through our banks.
      Obviously, the government is making more money off drugs being illegal than they could from legalizing and taxing them–at least with the harder drugs. And my guess is, at the worst, they are breaking even with cannabis, if not making more money than they think they can make from taxing it…although it’s possible that if you subtrack the money NOT spent on cannabis prohibition, and add in the tx revenue the gov’t would receive, that this number would be larger.
      However, cannabis also serves yet another function for the drug warriors: it’s their “War on Drugs Poster Weed.” In other words, police and Feds can bust a lot of cannabis consumers and suppliers and make it look like they’re doing their job, whilst allowing more of the harder drugs to slip by–the ones from which they truly make a killing. It’s also a far less risky bust, arresting consumers and suppliers of cannabis. 98% or more of consumers are probably non-violent, in that they will not even try to run. And the dealers–especially if all they are dealing is cannabis–are almost equally non-violent, as opposed to crack, methamphetamine, and Heroin dealers, who like to shoot back.
      Legalizing cannabis is not a politically risky move so much with people–although there are the right-wing Christian extremists (even though it says in the Bible that God gave man all seed-bearing plants on earth for his use)–that would make a ruckus over it–as it is with these lobbyist groups.
      It’s too bad that people aren’t willing to exercise their purchasing influence more. For example, I don’t drink at all; but even when I used to, I would never drink Budweiser, because I knew they were one of the strongest lobbyists against cannabis law reform.
      I also think people should write the tobacco companies, who have been losing business, due to advertising that gives people information instead of telling them to “just say no,” and it’s worked.
      They could take over the cannabis growing and distribution, if we could get it legalized! They already have the setup–just replace some of their tobacco crops with cannabis and hemp crops. They could
      once again be a force to be reckoned with. We need a
      backer with lots of money. Money is the key, unfortunately, to getting things done in Washington.
      Like the saying goes, “The best government money can buy..”

    4. Chuck Jagoda says:

      Hey Allen,

      As I read your piece above I couldn’t avoid an image of a Fiorello La Guardia-type, no nonsense, leader with impeccable legal or administrative or legislative credentials (like former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke [sp?]) with the La Guardia Report in one hand and the Schaefer Report (1970, commissioned and then down played by Nixon) in the other calmly, scientifically, but decisively leading us to treat drugs differently.

      First, we need to further define the word “drugs.” There are dangerous-but-legal “drugs,” helpful-yet-illegal “drugs,” and probably even more distinctions than that.

      Then decriminalize, legalize, encourage the growing of marijuana–“Pot in every pot.” We NEED it for biodeisel fuel, building materials, medicine, and most importantly right now–a source of income. It’s the largest cash crop in California and in the United States. Yet, we keep it illegal and ignore it as a source of needed income.

      Well, breakfast is ready and I’ve got more snow shoveling to do.

      I hope Obama uses common sense on this important issue.

      Chuck Jagoda

    5. Paul Howard sr. says:

      it is time to say Enough! Stop arresting good people for consuming Marijuana. decrimelize now. Stop S.W.A.T
      from kicking in the doors of good people and smashing familys to the ground. a lot of good people smoke Marijuana. it is time to end this unjust war on good people.

    6. herbalicious says:

      Wow! You guys are quick. I was just sitting down to listen to Mr. Obama’s weekly address and I started to check my email while he was talking about this stuff and I was wondering if he would apply this facts-based philosophy about science to drug policy. And I got an email with this link. Great job!

      How can we push Obama’s transition team to consider Nedelmann? I signed that petition but can we organize a push to have people make comments in the general comment section?

      This just got opened last night & has not be announced yet. My marijuana comments are not registering so we may need to leave off marijuana and cannabis. I’m testing that now.

    7. rev.420 says:

      any 1 who thinks he isnt listening to change.gov or change.org might be very surprised!!!
      let cross our fingers and hope for the best!!!

    8. herbalicious says:

      Actually the “general comments” section is here:

      I’ve created a profile and put a medical marijuana images as my avatar. I’d love to see all cannabis consumers do the same. Let’s show Obama how many of us there are….

      I truly believe we can make a difference, together.

    9. herbalicious says:

      Ok, I just tested words “marijuana” & “cannabis” on the “general chat forums on the change.gov and they do take. However, comments are greatly limited by space. There’s not a whole lot one can say at any given time but I did manage to say I want Ethan Nadelmann for Drug Czar and that I hope Obama brings the same conviction he has for facts & science to drug policy and I hope he focuses on community health regarding drug policy instead of criminality.

    10. Doug Olena says:

      Thanks for the note. I would be glad to see Ethan in that office. Then maybe reason and good science would take the upper hand. Not likely though. The strength of feeling and hypocritical moral animosity, toward users and promoters of currently illicit drugs will not be overcome by truth very soon. The driving force of the nanny state will not go down without a fight.