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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Marijuana Group Sues Over ONDCP Montana, Alaska Visits

Submitted by Anon: The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a Washington, D.C.-based group that backed marijuana-related ballot items in Montana and Alaska, has gone to court with allegations that visits to the state by federal anti-drug leaders violated state campaign-finance laws.

The Billings Gazette reported July 15 that MPP filed a complaint in Helena District Court asking that the state's commissioner of political practices launch an investigation into a 2004 visit by Scott Burns, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). MPP contends that Burns violated Montana's campaign-finance law by speaking out against Initiative 148, the medical-marijuana referendum later passed overwhelmingly by state voters, and not disclosing how must taxpayer money was spent on his visit.

MPP said that ONDCP was acting as a de-facto political-action committee. "We're not trying to say the drug czar can't campaign," said MPP government-relations director Steve Fox said. "It's merely a fact that if a federal official chooses to come to the state, they should respect the state's regulations."

In Alaska, the Associated Press reported July 14, MPP filed a similar complaint related to Burns' 2004 visit to oppose a measure calling for marijuana legalization. The group filed the suit in Anchorage Superior Court.

A previous request for the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) to investigate the Burns visit was rejected in March. "I think APOC had denied the complaint because it's a federal agency involved and it didn't have jurisdiction," said Alaska Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones.

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