Drug Czar Ramstad?
Now that the State and Treasury department picks have been officially unveiled, the parlor game of Obama cabinet speculation turns to the less high-profile posts — the people no one hears much about unless it turns up that they’re harboring illegal immigrants in their garage. Almost since election day, retiring Rep. Jim Ramstad’s name has been rumored to be in the mix for Drug Czar (more formally known as the head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy).
Politico first tapped him as a likely candidate in mid-November. “It’s gratifying to hear Jim’s name being mentioned for drug czar,” Ramstad spokesman Dean Peterson told the publication at the time. “Jim has worked in a bipartisan way for 27 years on anti-drug efforts in Congress and the Minnesota Senate. And as a recovering person, he’s worked every day to help those suffering the ravages of chemical addiction.” The Christian Science Monitor keeps the speculation alive today, mentioning Ramstad as a potential pick in an editorial calling for a greater emphasis on drug treatment.
A possible Ramstad appointment has been warmly received by some who believe it would be a strong statement that addiction should be treated as a mental-health issue. The Republican congressman was influential in helping pass legislation earlier this year that requires health-insurance companies to cover mental and physical maladies equally.
But not everyone is enthusiastic about the notion of Ramstad as the country’s Drug Czar. Advocates of marijuana legalization view him as a staunch opponent of their cause, noting that he’s repeatedly voted against legislation that would have loosened restrictions on the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Advocates of needle-exchange programs also view Ramstad as an antagonist. Writing in the Huffington Post, Maia Szalavitz notes that the Republican legislator has consistently opposed such programs, despite overwhelming evidence of their efficacy in reducing HIV rates. In 1999, for instance, Ramstad voted for a bill that prevented Washington, D.C. from using its own funds to pay for syringe distribution.
Of course, Minnesota Democrats would likely rejoice at a Ramstad appointment. Why? If Gov. Tim Pawlenty opts not to run for a third term, the popular moderate’s name would undoubtedly jump to the top of the list of Republican hopefuls in 2010.
By Paul Demko 12/3/08 11:31 AM of the Minnesota Independent
The later part of the article expressed my viewpoints on the subject pretty well.