Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Who’s The Boss?

All this talk recently about and by our Drug Czar (aka, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy) has got me wondering: Who exactly does this guy answer to?

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy was officially created by the “National Drug-Abuse Act of 1988” (not to be confused with the “National Drug-Abuse Act of 1986”). So the office was created by an act of Congress. But the office itself, and its director, are a part of the executive branch. And, up until the current administration, the Drug Czar was a cabinet-level position.

And then in 1998, Congress passed the “Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998.” That act stated, in part:
The Director ... shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that ... is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration.
OK, sounds clear enough. The Drug Czar’s job has nothing to do with setting policy or providing factual information to citizens. Pretty shameful, if you ask me. But at least we know where the Drug Czar stands on national drug-control policy: Exactly where the federal government tells him to stand.

But wait, there’s more. In March, 2009 the President issued a “Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies” that stated, in part:
Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.

The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public.
As you can see, the plot has thickened considerably. What was once clear and unambiguous is now confused and contradictory. Congress has mandated that the Drug Czar oppose all efforts to reschedule Schedule I drugs (i.e., legalize them). Science has nothing whatsoever to do with his position on the subject. On the other hand, the President has mandated that science must guide all relevant decisions of his administration, and that policy makers must not lie to the public about science.

So what’s a Drug Czar to do? And I have to ask again, who’s the boss? Does the Czar answer to Congress, who created his position in the first place and who wrote his job description? Or does he answer to the president, who appointed him to a position in the executive branch? For now, at least, it looks like the President’s mandate to tell the truth about the science behind policy decision is trumped by Congress’s mandate to ignore science and stick to the official party line. Not that anybody really believed politicians would suddenly start telling the truth about the reasoning behind their policy decisions. But it sounded good on paper. So to answer the original question, it looks like the Drug Czar answers to the president but must follow the rules laid down by Congress. He is, as I’ve said before, nothing more than a shill for the federal government’s anti-drug propaganda machine. Sad, but true.

1 comment:

muggles said...

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