Pubdate: Fri, 23 Feb 2001
Source: Arizona Republic (AZ)
Copyright: 2001 The Arizona Republic
Contact:  200 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Author: Mike McCloy


Optimistic but short-spoken, Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley 
returns today from a Washington interview with President Bush's staff 
for possible appointment as U.S. drug czar.

"I'm being considered," Romley said by telephone Thursday.

"I spoke about my thoughts on drug policy and what should be done 
from a national perspective."

Asked for details, Romley said, "That's between myself and the White 
House right now."

A major prosecutor of methamphetamine lab operators, Romley also has 
been a pioneer in diverting first-time non-violent drug users from 
criminal trial, if they undergo court-supervised treatment.

Bush is expected to name a replacement soon for Barry McCaffrey, who 
resigned in January as head of the Office of National Drug Control 

Among other contenders: former Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., who 
managed the impeachment of President Clinton; Florida drug policy 
coordinator James McDonough, a top aide to McCaffrey; and Boise, 
Idaho, Mayor Brent Coles, president of the National Conference of 

McCollum, who lost a U.S. Senate bid in November, told reporters last 
month that he wants the position.

"I'm interested in it because I really care about the subject," he said.

The drug czar coordinates a $19 billion international effort against 
drug abuse and trafficking.

Among hurdles for Romley are Arizona's medical-marijuana initiatives 
of 1996 and 1998 that reduced penalties for simple drug possession 
and would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana except for federal 

Romley and other prosecutors were unable to mount an effective 
campaign against the initiative in 1996 but did head off another 
ballot proposal last year that would have set up a medical-marijuana 
distribution system in Arizona.

Medical marijuana has been a target of Betty Sembler, founder and 
president of Save Our Society From Drugs (S.O.S.), and a Romley 

Sembler has Bush's ear as the wife of former U. N. Ambassador Mel 
Sembler of Florida, a major Republican Party financier.

Another issue for Romley might be a mortgage that provided a combined 
$800 monthly to him and his sister from the 902 Bar in downtown 
Phoenix. Police investigated and the Guardian Angels anti-crime 
activist group protested parking-lot drug deals at the bar before 
Romley relinquished his inherited interest in 1990.

When he ran in 1988 for the first of his four terms as county 
attorney, Romley also disclosed using marijuana a couple of times as 
a teenager in the 1960s.

Gannett News Service reporter Sergio Bustos contributed to this report.
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