Reported at Politico
A coalition of advocacy and nonprofit organizations, including the National Black Police Association, sent a letter today to President-elect Barack Obama preemptively pushing back against the nomination of Rep. James Ramstad (R-Minn.) to be head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, or “Drug Czar.”
Ramstad has not been nominated for the position, but his name has been mentioned in Democratic circles and he has expressed gratification at the prospect of his consideration.
“While we applaud Representative Ramstad for his courageous and steady support for expanding drug treatment access and improving addiction awareness, and honor his own personal and very public triumph over addiction, we have strong reservations about his candidacy for the drug czar position,” reads the letter.
The coalition, which includes civic and drug-policy reform organizations, cites his past opposition to medical marijuana, needle exchange and sentencing reform as reasons for concern.
The list of signers is impressive, as is the letter:
While we applaud Representative Ramstad for his courageous and steady support for expanding drug treatment access and improving addiction awareness, and honor his own personal and very public triumph over addiction, we have strong reservations about his candidacy for the drug czar position. In his twenty-eight years in the U.S. House, Representative Ramstad has consistently opposed policies that seek to reduce drug-related harm and create common ground on polarizing issues. […]
We urge you to nominate for drug czar someone with a public health background, who is committed to reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases, open to systematic drug policy reform, and able to show strong leadership on the issues you believe in.
Matthew DeLong, at the Washington Independent also picked up on it:
Admittedly, I know almost nothing about Ramstad. If the letter accurately states his positions, he‰s probably a poor choice to direct the new administration‰s drug control policy.
However, if Obama is determined to put a bipartisan face on his anti-drug efforts, reformers may have several reasons to remain optimistic. […]
Finally, and most important, there is this comment Obama made Monday at a press conference in which he named his foreign policy team:
“I will be setting policy as president. I will be responsible for the vision that this team carries out, and I expect them to implement that vision once decisions are made. As Harry Truman said, ‹The buck will stop with me.Š
Presumably, this will apply to all aspects of the new administration‰s domestic and foreign policy, including drug control.
Related to this, the SSDP petition to President-elect Obama (making a similar request) is up to around 9,000 signatures already.