Press Release  | 06/24/2003

Senate Judiciary Committee to Consider Bush

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New Administrator Called on to Redirect Agency's Misguided Priorities
DEA Has Spent Billions in Taxpayer Money, Arresting Tens of Thousands, But Having No Impact on Reducing Availability of Illegal Drugs

Less than five months after the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) criticized the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for failing to reduce the availability of illegal drugs and having no long-term strategies or goals, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider someone new as its Administrator. President Bush's nomination to run the DEA, Karen Tandy, will be testifying tomorrow -- Wednesday June 25 at 2:00 PM in Room 215 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building.

February's OMB report specifically stated that the DEA "is unable to demonstrate progress in reducing the availability of illegal drugs in the United States." According to the New York Times, the report also found that the DEA lacks clear long-term strategies and goals, its managers are not held accountable for problems, and its financial controls do not comply with federal standards.

"We hope the new head of the DEA will not continue the failed policies of the past," said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, DC. "Instead of harassing sick people who use marijuana as medicine, or filling our prisons with low-level nonviolent drug offenders, the DEA should focus on taking down violent crime syndicates."

The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization promoting alternatives to the war on drugs, is also calling on the DEA to stop making politically-motivated arrests of medical marijuana patients and other Americans, and focus instead on reducing the death, disease, crime and suffering related to drug abuse and our current drug policies. Specifically, the DEA should:

  • Stop arresting sick people for using marijuana for medical purposes. In California, for example, where medical marijuana is legal, the DEA continues to arrest AIDS, cancer and other patients, and shut down nonprofit cooperatives that work to relive their pain and suffering.
  • Stop abusing enforcement of the "RAVE Act" by punishing innocent business owners and threatening political organizers. The RAVE Act recently passed as a rider in the "AMBER Alert" bill, becoming law without ever receiving a hearing -- despite nationwide protests. It threatens free speech and musical expression while making hotel owners, concert promoters, event organizers and nightclub or arena owners liable for the drug law violations of third parties, even if they make a good-faith effort to keep the event drug-free. Recently the DEA targeted venue owners in Billings, Montana, who were planning to hold a political fundraiser for a 2004 medical marijuana initiative. Threatened with prosecution under the RAVE Act, they cancelled the event.
  • Stop spending precious law enforcement resources on arresting and locking up nonviolent Americans. Nearly 100,000 people are in federal prison for drug offenses -- compared with only 5,000 for homicide, aggravated assault and kidnapping, combined. If you add state and local prisoners to this number, there are nearly half a million people behind bars in the United States for drug offenses, many of whom are nonviolent. Studies show that drug treatment works better than incarceration in reducing drug abuse, and costs significantly less.

Tony Newman at 212-613-8026 or Shayna Samuels at 646-523-6961

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