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Tom Marino Won’t Be Drug Czar: Why Marijuana Enthusiasts Are Happy

Rep. Tom Marino, President Donald Trump’s controversial pick to be America’s drug czar, has removed his name out of consideration after an investigation from The Washington Post and CBS News revealed he played a role in undermining the DEA’s ability to crack down on opioid abuse.

The scandal, which broke Sunday, culminated in Marino’s withdrawal on Tuesday. This marks the second time the well-known drug warrior abruptly ended his nomination. In May, citing family health issues, walked away after Trump’s nomination.

On Tuesday, Marino released this statement:

“As a former prosecutor who has dedicated my life to aggressive and faithful enforcement of our laws, I have reached the difficult decision that the best course of action is to remove the distraction my nomination has created to the utterly vital mission of this premier agency.

With Marino out of the picture, the future of the Office of National Drug Control Policy remains fuzzy. As America grapples with an opioid overdose epidemic — CDC data shows that overdose deaths climbed to 64,070 in 2016 (up more than 11,000 from 2015) — there is a lack of leadership on the issue.

As Americans For Safe Access writes:

With Rep. Marino withdrawing, the country’s leadership on national drug policy remains unclear:

  • ONDCP does not have a permanent person in role of Drug Czar

  • Department of Health and Human Services is without a Secretary of Health after Tom Price’s resignation

  • The DEA only has an acting director, and

  • The President’s Commission on Combating Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has continued to delay and postpone its meetings.

Trump has promised he would declare a national emergency next week to help solve the crisis, but he has made that promise before with no results. Despite the lack of leadership, most cannabis advocated were pleased with Marino’s withdrawal. The Drug Policy Alliance gave Marino an F in its 2016 voter guide:

“The Trump administration has escalated the war on drugs, ignoring overwhelming evidence that it’s deeply unpopular and staggeringly counterproductive,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance. “The next drug czar should resist failed drug war tactics and instead prioritize health-based interventions that reduce drug related harm and save lives.”

As the Washington Post‘s Christopher Ingraham writes:

Marino’s congressional voting record is that of a hard-liner on marijuana issues, and he recently said that he’d like to put nonviolent drug offenders in some sort of “hospital-slash-prison.”

In Congress, Marino voted multiple times against a bipartisan measure to prevent the Justice Department from going after state-legal medical marijuana businesses. (The measure ultimately passed.)

Similarly, he voted against a measure to allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients, as well as against a separate measure to loosen federal restrictions on hemp, a non-psychoactive variant of the cannabis plant with potential industrial applications.



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