John Brownlee claims he wants to “reduc[e] drug dependency”, but why did he oppose the building of a drug treatment clinic in Roanoke County?

I should preface this post with this statement: If someone is selling (distributing) illegal narcotics, I think they should be locked up in prison for an appropriate amount of time. If someone is arrested for using or possessing illegal drugs, I also believe that they should be locked up unless they have a genuine desire to get clean. To stop using drugs cold turkey is almost never effective and can result in serious medical problems from withdraws. I also believe a distinction should made between someone that becomes addicted to a drug that they were legally and properly using (e.g., OxyContin) and then have to seek illegal means to satisfy their addiction, versus a drug that they decided to start using because it looked ‘fun’. The best way to treat certain drugs problems is by using methadone (which is used to treat opiate addiction, including addictions to OxyContin), like it or not. It’s not a perfect solution since the patients then needs methadone in their system to function, but it’s better than having someone addicted to an drug that they’re acquiring through illegal means.

Back in 2003, the Life Center of Galax proposed building a methadone drug treatment clinic in Roanoke County. They already ran two similar facilities, one located in Galax and the other in Tazewell County. According to the Life Center, approximately 75 people were commuting to Galax every day from the Roanoke area for treatment, resulting in a commute of over 90 miles and one and a half hours. Predictably, the various fearmongers and moral panickers in the area raised hell and objected to the facility being located in their neighborhood.

While the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Zoning Appeals consider the appropriateness of the facility, John Brownlee entered the fray and spoke before the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors stating there was “anecdotal evidence” that the drug treatment facility could result in an increase in crime.[1] Someone should tell Mr. Brownlee that “anecdotal evidence” isn’t evidence. This guy was a prosecutor at the time, right?

When confronted by a reporter from The Roanoke Times who had statistics that showed there had been no increase in crime as result of the Life Center’s facilities in Galax and Tazewell County, this is what Brownlee is reported to have said:

But after his presentation to the board, Brownlee acknowledged that in Galax and Tazewell County – where the Life Center of Galax operates the only two methadone clinics in Southwest Virginia – police say they have not encountered problems with drug dealing around the clinics.

The one case of suspected drug dealing turned out to be unfounded, Life Center officials have said, and Galax Police Chief Rick Clark has confirmed that the clinic is not a problem for law enforcement.

It may be that police and clinic officials have worked effectively in Galax to prevent possible problems, Brownlee said. But, he said, his intent Tuesday was to warn Roanoke County officials about what could happen here.[1]

So, instead of Brownlee basing his statements on real evidence including statements from the police chief of Galax, not “anecdotal evidence” as he did, Brownlee decided to play into the fearmongering and moral panicking of some of the residents and officals of Roanoke County.

But this story gets even weirder: The Life Center eventually dropped their plans for building the clinic in Roanoke County due to oppression from the community and elected officials. By 2004, however, another company developed plans for building a methadone drug treatment clinic in the city of Roanoke. Again, there was the same fearmongering and moral panicking by citizens and elected officials.

While this plan went ahead, Brownlee was mum until then-City Councilman and now-Vice Mayor Sherman Lea brought up the fact that Brownlee’s opposition to methadone clinics seemed to be selective since he hadn’t come before the Roanoke City Council to express his concerns to the proposed clinic in the city. Here’s how The Roanoke Times reported the exchange between Lea and Brownlee:[2]

Brownlee said he would be glad to give the same assessment regarding the proposed city clinic, “but nobody in the city has raised the issue with me.”

[…]

When told of Brownlee’s remarks, Lea didn’t dispute that no one in the city has contacted the U.S. attorney. But Lea said Brownlee, in his public position, should have realized the need to speak out on Roanoke’s situation the same way he did in the county.

Lea said he will write Brownlee a letter this week inviting him to speak at the council meeting Nov. 15.[2]

However, Brownlee did not speak at the November 15 meeting of the Roanoke City Council. Why? According to now-Vice Mayor Lea, Brownlee could not speak because he could not secure the permission of the United States Attorney General. Seriously, he claimed that the United States Attorney General had to approve his comments.[3] Does anyone else really believe that the U.S. Attorney General personally approves each and every public appearance by all 93 United States Attorney? Yeah, me neither.

Regardless, the facility in the city of Roanoke and opened in 2005. According to a follow-up story by The Roanoke Times in 2009 dealing with the clinic that was successfully built in the city of Roanoke, they reported that 1,000 people had been treated at that facility since it opened in January 2005. In 2008, there had been only 14 police calls to the facility, “mostly for minor reasons such as a false burglar alarm or reports of suspicious activity that didn’t turn out to be serious.” In 2007, there were 34 police calls, “most of which involved the trigger-happy burglar alarm.” For comparison, according to a police spokeswoman, a nearby business had 42 calls for police services in 2008. One neighbor made the following comment: “I don’t even know that place is up there.” And according to the same story, property values for the 16 homes on the street had all gone up.[4]

Now, on John Brownlee’s campaign website he claims that he “reduc[e] drug dependency” but doesn’t actually say how he plans on accomplishing that.[5]

John Brownlee also brags on no less than three pages of his website how he managed to secure $634 million from Purdue Pharma, the maker of the painkiller OxyContin, for violating consumer protection laws in their marketing of the drug.[6][7][8] So, apparently Brownlee believes that the government should be able to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from a drug company, but he also apparently believes that people that have become addicted to their drug — which Brownlee describes as “highly addictive and dangerous”[7][8] — shouldn’t have a place to go to receive treatment for their addiction. Again, these are people that were legally prescribed a drug which they became addicted to due to no fault of their own.

These stories are a perfect example of the problems with John Brownlee. For one, whenever he makes a decision or statement he goes off half-cocked: Whether it’s statements regarding the criminal impact that a drug treatment clinic will have; how his position on abortion is more conservative than Ken Cuccinelli’s — it isn’t; and Ken Cuccinelli’s military service in the Marine Corps.

Second, he also seems to have trouble with the truth. He claims that he’ll be “glad” to speak to the Roanoke City Council about their proposed clinic, but then claims that the United States Attorney General won’t let him speak. Yeah, right. You could also throw in some things from the the previous paragraph. He’s either makes comments and decision while being completely ignorant of the subject or he’s just lying.

Third, he’s a political animal. Even the folks at The Roanoke Times noticed this way back in October of 2003, opining that everything that Brownlee does seems to be motivated by politics.[9]

Do you really want someone like that as your Attorney General? Do you even want him as the Republican nominee for Attorney General?

  1. Laurence Hammack. “U.S. ATTORNEY WARNS OF DRUG DEALERS AT CLINIC; BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TOOK NO ACTION ON THE PROPOSED CLINIC.” The Roanoke Times. 15 Oct 2003: LexisNexis. [] []
  2. Todd Jackson. “BROWNLEE SLIGHTED CITY, LEA CONTENDS.” The Roanoke Times. 2 Nov 2004: LexisNexis. [] []
  3. Sherman Lea. “Re: Question on John Brownlee and methadone clinic in the city of Roanoke.” E-mail to the author. 8 Mar 2009. []
  4. Laurence Hammack. “Methadone clinic fails to trigger any disasters: Despite earlier fears, the clinic has brought neither increased crime nor depressed property values.” The Roanoke Times. 25 Jan 2009: LexisNexis. []
  5. “Fighting Drug Dealers and Reducing Drug Dependency.” John Brownlee for Attorney General. John Brownlee for Attorney General. 29 May 2009 <http://www.johnbrownlee2009.com/issues-drugs.htm>. []
  6. “Consumer Protection and Corporate Governance.” John Brownlee for Attorney General. John Brownlee for Attorney General. 9 Mar 2009 <http://www.johnbrownlee2009.com/issues-consumer.htm>. []
  7. “Former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee Announces Campaign for Attorney General.” John Brownlee for Attorney General. John Brownlee for Attorney General. 9 Mar 2009 <http://www.johnbrownlee2009.com/nr-052008.htm>. [] []
  8. “Meet John Brownlee.” John Brownlee for Attorney General. John Brownlee for Attorney General. 9 Mar 2009 <http://www.johnbrownlee2009.com/aboutJohn.htm>. [] []
  9. “ROANOKE’S POLITICAL U.S. ATTORNEY”. The Roanoke Times. 16 Oct 2003: LexisNexis. []

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