Rebellion Against the Drug Czar

John Walters can steal your money, but should he break your heart?


Drug Czar John Walters wants us all to make the right decisions. Not just about what chemicals we choose to put in our body, but about how we choose to vote. He campaigned against Nevada's ballot initiative this November that would have legalized marijuana possession in that state.

It might seem a trifle unfair—and possibly in violation of campaign finance law—for someone with a $180 million ad budget and the full power of the federal government behind him to explicitly throw his weight around in a state election. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) thinks so, and on December 4 they intend to file an official complaint with the federal Office of Special Counsel, charging that Walters violated both the federal Hatch Act (which prohibits federal employees from indulging in certain campaigning activities) and Nevada campaign finance laws, since he didn't report his anti-initiative activities as campaign contributions. MPP chief Robert Kampia is calling for Walters to be removed from office for his "illegal and dishonest activities."

This isn't the drug czar office's first attempt to extend its propagandizing beyond traditional public service ads. The Clinton-era drug czar's office launched a program of paying off networks to include anti-drug messages in entertainment programs.

While it's undoubtedly true that campaign junkets by bureaucrats and very special episodes of TV shows aren't major decision-making factors for most Americans, the drug czar office's shameless attempts to use money they've stolen from us to tell us what to think and how to vote—and what TV characters we should be pitying—shows a lack of respect for democracy and culture that's galling, to say the least. While the thin props that hold up John Walters sad little propaganda dreamworld are collapsing almost daily—see the recent study from the RAND Drug Policy Research Center debunking the notion that marijuana is always the first step on the road to junkiedom—it's unsurprising that he desperately inserts himself into every situation where an American might get to think for herself about drugs and drug laws. The Drug Czar office has certainly violated a basic American notion of government—that it should protect our lives and property, not propagandize us at election time. The MPP is challenging that the office is violating the law as well. If so, the full force of the law should weigh on Walters, just as he advocates it weigh on users of a certain selection of herbs and chemicals.