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Drug Czar Lee Brown Resigns


January 1996

Dr. Lee P. Brown, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, announced his resignation on December 12 (Pierre Thomas and Jim McGee, "Brown Ends Two-Year Tenure as Drug Policy Chief," Washington Post, December 13, 1995, p. A27).

Announcing his resignation in Houston, Brown expressed frustration at the current climate in Washington. "At a time when we see a rise in the use of illegal drugs by our adolescents, the proposed budget cuts in drug-fighting are wrong-headed and must be reversed," he said.

Brown became the "Drug Czar" in 1993. He had previously headed the Atlanta, Houston, and New York police departments. Brown said he is leaving the office to begin a teaching job at Rice University in Houston. Brown's name has also been mentioned as a potential candidate for mayor in Houston.

During Brown's tenure, Clinton raised the status of the drug czar to cabinet-level, but the department's budget and staff were dramatically cut. The mission of the Office of National Drug Control Policy was criticized by members of Congress, who called for a stiffer anti-drug message from the White House.

Although Brown may have lost some political battles, he is credited for supporting High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) teams. He was also praised for enabling more aggressive investigation of the Colombian Cali drug trafficking cartel, which led to a massive indictment of that cartel's leaders and the lawyers who allegedly aided their criminal activities in the U.S. (see "Massive Indictment Charges Former Justice Official and 61 Others With Racketeering, NewsBriefs, September 1995, p. 3).

Clinton said he would accept Brown's resignation "with regret." White House Spokesperson Michael McCurry said the search for a new drug czar had begun.

[I credit Brown for advocating treatment for hardcore addicts as the most humane and effective way to reduce overall demand for cocaine and heroin. He was no more successful than other cabinet officers in moving the White House to progressive positions.--EES]