May 10, 2001
Bush's New DEA Chief No "Compassionate
Arkansas Republican Backs Global Militarization of Drug War; Supports Federal Ban on "Drug-Speech"; Opposes Medical Marijuana -- Even for Research
Arkansas Republican Asa Hutchinson -- a drug war hawk who supports jailing
individuals who post information pertaining to drugs on the Internet -- was
announced yesterday as Bush's pick to head the Drug Enforcement
Administration. Hutchinson's nomination follows the appointment of John P.
Walters -- a fellow hard-liner who favors incarceration over treatment for drug
offenders -- as the nation's Drug Czar.
"When it comes to leading Bush's drug war, 'compassionate conservatives' need not apply," criticized NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup.
Hutchinson, who is currently serving his third term in Congress, is known for his harsh views toward drugs and drug offenders. He advocates increased funding for drug interdiction -- arguing that "we have to have a commitment of resources, yes enormous resources, in this country to win this war" -- and has criticized recent increases in federal spending on drug treatment programs. "Elimination (of drugs and drug use) -- not containment -- should be our goal. ... We cannot win this war ... simply by putting money in demand reduction," he argues.
Some of Hutchinson's other views on the drug war include:
» HUTCHINSON SUPPORTS FURTHER MILITARIZATION OF U.S. DRUG WAR IN LATIN AMERICA
Hutchinson is a vocal supporter of
expanding the U.S. military presence in Latin America under the guise of
interdicting drugs, and was a staunch proponent of last year's controversial 1.3
billion dollar military aid package to Columbia, ostensibly to fund anti-drug
efforts. The aid package provided Columbia with 65 U.S. Black Hawk and
Huey II helicopters, and included funding for crop fumigation and Columbian army
battalion training. Hutchinson backed his decision on CNN's
"Crossfire", maintaining "It's incumbent upon us to assist our
neighbors in really fighting our war."
Critics of the funding package argue that the aid could have been better spent on domestic drug treatment programs, noting that the cost of buying the helicopters alone ($400 million) could have treated 200,000 addicts in the U.S.
» HUTCHINSON OPPOSES ANY USE OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA -- INCLUDING RESEARCH ON ITS THERAPEUTIC POTENTIAL
Hutchinson vehemently opposes the
use of medicinal marijuana by seriously ill patients, even in those states that
have legalized its use. In 1999, he backed legislation preventing
Washington DC from implementing a ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana
-- even though it had been approved by 70 percent of District voters.
He also opposed funding a 1999 Institute of Medicine study on marijuana's medical potential, arguing that such research may compromise the war on drugs. "A study of marijuana's medicinal effectiveness ... is absolutely the wrong way to go on this issue," he told Congress in 1997. "It sends the wrong message to young people."
The IOM study opposed by Hutchinson concluded: "Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs ... for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation. ... Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range tolerated for other medications."
» HUTCHINSON BACKS TEN-YEAR PRISON TERMS FOR ANYONE POSTING DRUG INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET
Hutchinson angered free-speech
advocates in 1999 by co-sponsoring legislation (H.R. 2987) that sought to impose
a ten-year felony sentence on anyone who communicates, by any means,
"information pertaining to the ... manufacture of a controlled
substance." (Sec. 421) Although purportedly aimed at information
pertaining to meth-manufacturing, the statute's purposely vague wording would
have applied to any website, magazine or book containing information on a range
of drug-related topics, including procuring medical marijuana, sterilizing
needles and hemp fiber cultivation.
After media outcry against the measure, the language was eventually eliminated from the bill (though it remained in the Senate's version).
» HUTCHINSON SUPPORTS OVERRIDING FEDERAL LAW TO ALLOW FEDERAL FUNDS TO INFLUENCE STATE ELECTIONS
During Congressional hearings in
1999, Hutchinson criticized government officials for failing to spend federal
dollars to persuade voters to reject state initiatives aimed at legalizing
medical marijuana and reforming prison sentencing. Upon learning that such
behavior would be in violation of federal law (Federal tax dollars may not be
used to influence state elections.), Hutchinson proposed Congress override the
law so that federal monies could be specifically used to influence voters in
states with pending drug reform initiatives. Hutchinson also urged federal
officials, including the President and Vice President, "go into those
states (with pending initiatives) and say this is bad for the country."
It's possible that Hutchinson's views on this issue may be at odds with President Bush, who also opposes the medical use of marijuana but backs states' rights to decide the issue. "I believe each state can choose that decision as they choose," he has said.
For more information on the Hutchinson and Walters' nominations, please contact Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML, at (202) 483-5500 or Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-8751.
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