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January 2009
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How the Obama administration could be better for drug policy reform even if unsupportive

Much of the speculation of how the Obama administration may differ from the Bush administration has been over the degree to which Obama may actively support change, or even passively allow change through benign neglect.
There is, however, another more subtle avenue that may become available.
OK, you regulars — can you remember back to the Data Quality Act (AKA Information Quality Act)? We used to talk about it here quite a lot. The idea was that the government could be challenged on the accuracy of the information they provided and they would be required to respond in 60 days.
Well, ASA decided this was a good tool to use against the government for its propaganda against medical marijuana, and it filed a request for correction.
Go to the HHS page and scroll down to #20. You’ll see that the 60 day period started on October 6, 2004. Delay after delay stretched the non-answer to over four years, and I can’t even tell if it’s still active.
This is just one example, but it was typical. Even when the law was on our side, the government has actively flouted and disobeyed the rule of law without consequence, completely disenfranchising us.
Sure, the Bush administration has been primarily known for its law-breaking in other areas, but it has been pervasive in all areas of the government.
If… if a new administration were to actually reinstate the rule of law for the government, then those of us seeking to petition the government for redress of grievances could conceivably find an administrative structure working on behalf of the Constitution rather than actively supressing it.
Now, it’s no surprise that government (regardless of party) likes to have its power, its secrets, its exclusivity. So there’s no guarantee that the Obama administration will be better than the Bush administration (and the Clinton administration, despite our smaller power as a movement, was no great friend).
However, there are signs.
Glenn Greenwald writes today about one of the latest of Obama’s appointments: Dawn Johnson as head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice. This is a critical position, important to the independence of the DOJ and the adherence to the rule of law. And Obama selected someone who has written:

[W]e must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power.

She also referred to the Office of Legal Counsel, long before she was even being considered for the position, as “the office entrusted with making sure the President obeys the law.”
This could be really good news. If the government obeys the law, we have a better chance of holding it accountable.

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