Monday, December 01, 2008


Friends and Allies:

As you may know, there have been several media stories saying that President-elect Obama might nominate Rep. Ramstad (R-MN/3rd) to be our nation's next "Drug Czar". While Rep. Ramstad has been good on "parity" legislation (and is in recovery himself), he has been an opponent of methadone in the past. He also has a long record of opposing syringe exchange programs, medical marijuana, and other public health issues. He has no record of support for sentencing reform or eliminating racial disparities in the criminal justice system. We're circulating a sign-on letter to President-elect Obama expressing these concerns. Please consider signing on. You can e-mail to sign on. Please indicate whether the organization you represent is signing on or if you're just signing on in your personal capacity. Either way please provide your name, title, and organization affiliation. The deadline for signing on is 10am EST on Wednesday, December 3rd. (Sorry for the short turn around time).

December 1, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama,

We are both heartened by your electoral victory and excited by the many opportunities for fresh thinking on the intersections between illicit drug use, punitive sentencing policies and the transmission of HIV/AIDS. You showed strong leadership on the campaign trail by pledging to lift the federal funding ban on syringe exchange programs, end the excessive federal law enforcement raids aimed at medical marijuana patients, and eliminate the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. We are concerned, however, about media reports that you may choose Rep. James Ramstad (R-MN/3rd) to be your director of national drug control policy or "drug czar".

While we applaud Representative Ramstad for his courageous and steady support for expanding drug treatment access and improving addiction awareness, and honor his own personal and very public triumph over addiction, we have strong reservations about his candidacy for the drug czar position. In his twenty-eight years in the U.S. House, Representative Ramstad has consistently opposed policies that seek to reduce drug-related harm and create common ground on polarizing issues.

Representative Ramstad voted in 1998 in favor of making permanent the federal funding ban on syringe exchange, voted in 2000 to prohibit the District of Columbia from spending its own locally raised funds on syringe exchange programs and voted in 2007 against lifting the same DC ban, despite decades of research showing that syringe exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS without increase drug use. Rep. Ramstad has also consistently opposed congressional efforts to stop the arrest of HIV/AIDS, cancer and other patients who use medical marijuana to ease their pain and suffering in states where it is legal.

Unlike you and Vice President-elect Biden, Rep. Ramstad has also failed to cosponsor any legislation eliminating the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, despite the fact that there were four different crack/powder reform bills before the U.S. House in the 110th Congress. A number of recent studies have found that long prison sentences are one factor driving disproportionate rates of HIV/AIDS infections in communities of color. A primary task of the next drug czar should be to deal with this and other issues related to overincarceration.

We urge you to nominate for drug czar someone with a public health background, who is committed to reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases, open to systematic drug policy reform, and able to show strong leadership on the issues you believe in. Thank you for your consideration and attention to our concerns, and congratulations again on your historic victory.



ACTUP-New York (New York, NY)

Advocates for Youth (Washington, DC)

AIDS Action Baltimore (Baltimore, MD)

AIDS Foundation of Chicago (Chicago, IL)

AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (Cleveland, OH)

AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition (Boston, MA)

Brothers and Sisters in Action (Rialto, CA)

CAEAR Coalition (Washington, DC)

California Communities United Institute

Chicago Recovery Alliance (Chicago, IL)

Citizens Alliance for VD Awareness (Mount Prospect, IL)

Citizens AIDS Project (Mount Prospect, IL)

Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP)(New York, NY)

East Bay AIDS Center (Oakland, CA)

Exponents (New York, NY)

Harm Reduction Coalition (New York, NY)

Health GAP (Global Access Project) (NY)

HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County (Oakland, CA)

HIVictorious, Inc. (Madison, Wisconsin)

Housing Works (New York, NY)

International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (ICW) (United Kingdom)

Justice Policy Institute (JPI) (Washington, DC)

L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center (Los Angeles, CA)

Latino Commission on AIDS (New York, NY)

National AIDS Fund (Washington, DC)

National Black Police Association (Washington, DC)

New Age Services Corporation (Chicago, IL)

National Council of Jewish Women (Washington, DC)

Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative (Chicago, IL)

Philadelphia FIGHT (Philadelphia, PA)

SAVE Inc. (Kansas City, MO)

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) (Washington, DC)

Treatment Action Group (New York, NY)

Visual AIDS (New York, NY)


G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D.

Professor and Director

Addictive Behaviors Research Center, University of Washington

Seattle, WA

Tiia Harrison

AIVL Project Education Officer



Luis M. Lozano,
Executive Director
The Beacon House Association of San Pedro
San Pedro, CA

George Kerr
Co-Chair, DC Fights Back

Project Director, Start at Westminster

Washington, DC

Carol Bergman

Policy Director

Global AIDS Alliance

Washington, DC

Tamara Oyola-Santiago, MA, MPH


Harm Reduction Place

New York, NY

Patt Denning, PhD

Director of Clinical Services and Training

Harm Reduction Therapy Center

San Francisco,C CA

William Martin

Senior Fellow for Drug Policy

James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy Rice University

Houston, TX

Sanho Tree


Drug Policy Project

Institute for Policy Studies

Washington, DC

Mark Peterson


Michigan Positive Action Coalition (MI-POZ)

Detroit, MI

Lynn M. Paltrow
Executive Director
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
New York, NY

Victoria Culkin, MA

HIV Prevention Evaluation Coordinator

New Mexico Department of Health

Santa Fe, NM

Andrew Tatarsky, PhD

Founding executive board member

Division on Addictions, New York State Psychological Association

New York, NY

Monique Howard, MPH, EdD

Executive Director

New Jersey Women and AIDS Network (NJWAN)

New Brunswick, NJ

Professor Nick Crofts

Senior Research Fellow

Nossal Institute for Global Health

University of Melbourne


Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch

Director, Global Drug Policy Program

Open Society Institute

New York, NY

Yvette Gonzales

CRCS Case Manager

Positive Health Project, Inc.

New York, NY

Nancy Cheak-Zamora, Ph.D.
Research Manager
Saint Louis University
School of Public Health
Saint Louis, MO

Lynne R. Appel

Executive Director

Southern California Alcohol and Drug Programs, Inc.

Downey, CA


Program Supervisor MMIDU

St. Vincent's Hospital Manhattan

New York, NY

Scott Burris
Professor of Law
Temple University Beasley School of Law
Philadelphia, PA

Yadira Perez


Turning Research into Prevention

New York, NY

Nancy Freeman, Psy.D.

Clinical Psychologist-Psychoanalyst

Member of New York State Psychological Association and American Psychological


Graduate of William Alanson White Institute

Frederick L. Altice, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Director of Clinical and Community Research
Yale University School of Medicine
Section of Infectious Diseases, AIDS Program
New Haven, CT

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