Acting Drug Czar Update

Pat Rogers (who has a new blog) writes me to say that the temporary appointment of Ed Jurith as Acting Director of the ONDCP should be more concerning than Scott Morgan and I have indicated. He notes that Jurith has a history of being a drug warrior, and…

…many in the drug policy reform community like to think that the raid on a medical marijuana facility in California just after the inauguration was a last vestige of the Bush administration, but Jurith had already been appointed acting director of the ONDCP on the 20th of January so there is every reason to believe that the raid was actually sanctioned by the Obama administration.

Pat may be right — I certainly have no inside ear to know who’s been talking about what or making which decisions. I’m just speculating.
But my take doesn’t change. Is Ed Jurith a drug warrior? Of course — he’s been with the ONDCP forever. Is he a Drug Czar? No way.
A drug czar (in the sense that Walters has been a drug czar and McCaffrey was before him) is not so much a developer of policy (as a member of the White House Office, the Director of the ONDCP serves at the pleasure of the President). The Drug Czar is, instead, a public figurehead — a propaganda promoter, a policy apologist, a cunning liar whose job it is to convince the public that the government interest is theirs.
Take a look at the last time Jurith was Acting Drug Czar — the extended period of time between McCaffrey and Walters. He was invisible. Hardly any public appearances except a couple of small-time required appearances before Congress. He was put there as an administrator to keep the office functioning while decisions were made about the office. In fact, prior to Walters’ appointment, while Jurith was Acting Drug Czar, Bush was getting significant grief from Republican Congressmen (if I recall, Souder was one of them) about the fact that Bush had not yet appointed a drug czar!
I really expect Jurith to do the same job again. Be as invisible as possible.
Regarding the South Tahoe raid: it seems much less likely to me that Jurith somehow managed to get the ear of the President the day after inauguration, get an OK for the raid, bypass the not-yet-confirmed Attorney General to go to the DEA and have them do a raid the next day….
It seems infinitely more likely that Bush’s DEA head Michele Leonhart had a raid already planned for South Tahoe, saw that there was a temporary void in the AG’s office (due to the last minute hold put on Holder’s nomination) and no directions were coming from above to prevent her from continuing as she always had in going after medical marijuana dispensaries.

On January 9, 1998, when U.S. Attorney Michael Yamaguchi announced in a press conference that the government would take action against California medical marijuana clubs (arguably the start of the DEA’s current war against the sick), Leonhart was standing at his side.

It’s true that Obama has had nothing to say on the subject. As Pat notes:

Obama has not repudiated Mr. Jurith. Nor has the president used the raid as an opportunity to get up on a soap box in opposition to future raids.

In his first week, while attempting to pass a stimulus package, the President is going to publicly admonish his staff in order to support potheads (how it would be reported). Right. If he did anything right now, it would be a hand slap in a back room.
There was already a public explosion over Congress’ inclusion of condoms in the stimulus package. Public action directly taken by the President about medical marijuana would be a public relations nightmare.
Anyway that’s my take. Who knows?
Sure would be nice to be a fly on the wall, though.

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