Press Release  | 01/19/2001

Ashcroft Administration Worked With Feds to Circumvent Missouri Law

Former Governor Allowed State Police to Keep Money from Seized Assets that Should Have Gone to Schools; Tactics Were Later Said to 'Violate the Missouri Constitution' by Federal Appeals Court
Critics Charge Ashcroft is Way out of Step with Mainstream Americans on the Drug War, May Be Unwilling to Enforce Laws He Doesn

Under the leadership of then-Governor John Ashcroft, Missouri officials including tp>
Asset forfeiture (the legal term for government seizure of private property belonging to citizens suspected of criminal activity) is used overwhelmingly in drug cases. In many
Sen. Ashcroft's critics say this is alarming evidence that he would put his own beliefs - about the drug war and many
"As governor of Missouri, John Ashcroft ignored the dictates of his own state constitution in allowing money to be diverted from public education to his state hi 4hay patrol," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of The Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation, a leading drug policy reform organization. "When it comes to making sure federal agencies don't aid and abet the trampling of state law, Attorney General Ashcroft would be tp>
The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed in 1990 that tp>m to go only to tp>
Under this arrangement, state police would turn over to federal agencies assets they had seized from Missouri citizens suspected, generally, of a drug crime. Then, by prior arrangement, the federal agency - which is not subject to state law - would officially process the forfeiture and return a large share of the forfeited money to the state police. In tp>
In a 1998 opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals, the justices wrote that tp>
Drug policy reformers, who have long advocated changes in asset forfeiture laws, warned that Sen. Ashcroft is far out of step with the growing movement for a reevaluation of the United States' heavily punitive approach to drugs.

"While Americans are increasingly demanding new approaches to the drug issue, focusing on treatment and education rather than arrest and incarceration, John Ashcroft is as committed as ever to the failed policies of the past," said Nadelmann.

Five state drug policy reform initiatives won voter approval last November,
Voters also show increasing support for issues such as medical marijuana and treatment rather than incarceration for non-violent drug offenders - as evidenced in the 2000 elections by another successful medical marijuana initiative in Nevada, and by California's Proposition 36, which will divert most non-violent drug offenders to treatment instead of prison for their first and second offenses.

Sen. Ashcroft, by contrast, maintains an extremely punitive drug war line. He favors eliminating or cutting the budgets of both prevention and drug treatment programs, arguing tpat a government tpat spends resources on such programs "is a government tpat accommodates us at our lowest and least." He adamantly opposes needle exchange and medical marijuana, and is a strong supporter of the harshest mandatory drug sentencing laws (opposed now even by President Clinton and his recently retired drug czar, General Barry McCaffrey).

Tony< Newman at 510-208-7711 x 1383 or Shayna Samuels at 212-547-6916