The drug czar is going soft on drugs. That sounds almost like good news for cannabis advocates until you hear that he’s only going soft on some drugs, namely the ones partially responsible for our country’s current opioid epidemic.
An explosive report from The Washington Post and 60 Minutes reveals that President Donald Trump’s nominee for Drug Czar, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) worked with pharmaceutical industry lobbyists to weaken the DEA’s powers over opioid manufacturers.
In April 2016, Congress passed a bill which took away the DEA’s ability to fine narcotics manufacturers for bulk sales of hundreds of millions of pills which are believed to flow into the black market and onto the streets, feeding the nation’s opioid crisis which killed more than 64,000 people last year.
The efforts from the drug industry went far beyond Marino. Lobbyists representing the field put over $1.5 million into the campaigns of numerous lawmakers who sponsored the bill in question. But Marino is perceived to have led the charge, having spent years on the effort to move the legislation through congress.
Marino’s views on drugs which are not causing a national health crisis and which have never in the history of the world resulted in fatal overdose are less lenient. As a congressman, he voted against loosening restrictions on CBD oil, against VA doctors being able to recommend marijuana, and said that non-violent offenders may belong in a “hospital-slash-prison.”
This week, Congressional Democrats reacted to the Post piece by calling on President Trump to withdraw his nomination of Marino. Trump responded to that move by saying at a press conference Monday that though Marino is “a great guy,” he may “make a change” in his nomination based on investigations into Marino. At the same event, Trump said he would declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency next week.
The blame for the drug industry-friendly bill cannot lie with the Trump administration, however. It was passed through President Obama’s administration and signed by the man himself. Former White House officials in office at the time now say that they were unaware of the bill’s implications. Neither the DEA or the Justice Department objected to the bill at the time, and neither has responded to requests filed by The Post and 60 Minutes under the Freedom of Information Act.
Photo by Flickr user frankieleon