Congress Rejects Efforts To Use Federal Funds To Specifically Target Medical Marijuana Users, Campaign Against State InitiativesAmended Language Also Mandates White House Must Identify Itself As A Paid Sponsor Of Anti-Drug Ads

Washington, DC: Lawmakers today voted to remove and/or clarify several controversial provisions in Congressional legislation (H.R. 2086) reauthorizing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (a.k.a. the Drug Czar’s office).

On a voice vote, members of the House Committee on Government Reform approved an amended version of H.R. 2086. Among changes in the bill, the amended version:

* Strikes existing language that would have allowed the Drug Czar to reallocate as much as $60.5 million in federal funds from the “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program” to target and prosecute medicinal marijuana patients and their providers in states where the use of physician approved pot is legal.

* Eliminates language that would have exempted the ONDCP from federal FCC regulations obligating the agency to identify itself as a sponsor of taxpayer funded anti-drug advertisements and/or embedded content in television programs. The elimination of this provision assures that the agency abides by a previous FCC ruling on behalf of The NORML Foundation and the Media Access Project ordering that all public service announcements (PSAs) broadcasted under the auspices of the White House’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign must identify the ONDCP as a paid sponsor of the programming.

* Clarifies language forbidding taxpayer funded advertisements to be used “for partisan political purposes,” including efforts “to defeat any clearly identified candidate … or ballot initiative.”

NORML Executive Director applauded the fact that some of the more offensive provisions in the ONDCP reauthorization act had been amended, while still questioning Congress’s decision to refund the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign in light of studies concluding that it fails to discourage drug use among target audiences.

“Thanks to these amendments and, in large part, the work of Rep. Waxman, the drug Czar will not be permitted to spend our tax dollars in a partisan political manner to influence state initiatives, nor will his office be permitted to run ads without identifying the ONDCP as the sponsor,” Stroup said. “Nevertheless, we are disappointed that in this era of fiscal belt-tightening Congress continues to fund an advertising campaign with such proven poor performance, and that lacks any sort of objective oversight. As long as the White House insists on substituting ‘reefer madness’ in lieu of honest information, its ads will continue to have a negative impact on teens.”

A separate amendment proposed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to redirect the Drug Czar’s efforts away from issues pertaining to the medical use of marijuana was rejected by the Committee. An additional amendment introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-14) mandating the ONDCP to notify Congress of new print and television anti-drug advertisements 30 days prior to their airing was withdrawn.

The amended bill now goes before the full House for a vote.

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.