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Drug Warrior for Drug Czar?

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Reports abound that President Trump is going to nominate PA Congressman Tom Marino (R) to head up the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDC), which would make him the country’s next “Drug Czar”. If he is nominated and confirmed by the Senate, it could be a HUGE problem for the cannabis community.

For starters, Rep. Marino has never seen a marijuana law reform bill that he likes. From Tom Angell of Mass Roots:

As a member of Congress since 2011, Marino has consistently voted against marijuana law reform measures on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

For example, he voted three times against amendments to prevent the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws.

He also opposed a broader amendment to protect all state marijuana laws from Justice Department interference.

Marino voted three times against amendments to allow military veterans to receive medical cannabis recommendation through Department of Veterans Affairs doctors.

He also consistently opposed measures to allow industrial hemp.

And he even voted against a measure sponsored by a fellow Pennsylvania Republican to protect limited state cannabidiol (CBD) medical cannabis programs from federal interference.

How do you vote against industrial hemp and allowing veterans the option of trying medical marijuana? Could it be an extreme ignorance of cannabis and how it works? Possibly. After all, Marino wouldn’t be the first Congressperson to know absolutely nothing about an issue yet come to possess great power over it.

But perhaps there is more? Maybe something along the lines of Rep. Marino taking a ton of money from the pharmaceutical industry, the industry that stands to be hurt the most by the relaxation of marijuana laws, especially when it comes to medical use?

Well, let’s see! From the International Business Times:

If appointed, Marino would be the first member of Congress to become drug czar. He would come to the job after pulling in big money from an industry that is producing and distributing the nation’s most deadly legal drugs. Marino has received more than $150,000 in donations from the pharmaceutical industry in his political career, including $71,000 for the 2016 election, according to records at Maplight.org and Opensecrets.org. The data show Marino has received more money from the pharmaceutical industry than any other sector.

To be fair, it’s possible to be motivated by a combination of ignorance and campaign contributions. In fact, I would say it’s the norm in Washington D.C. But to have someone like that as head of the federal government’s drug control policy could be catastrophic indeed. How catastrophic, you ask?

“One treatment option I have advocated for years would be placing non-dealer, nonviolent drug abusers in a secured hospital-type setting under the constant care of health professionals,” Rep. Marino once wrote in testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee. “Once the person agrees to plead guilty to possession, he or she will be placed in an intensive treatment program until experts determine that they should be released under intense supervision. If this is accomplished, then the charges are dropped against that person. The charges are only filed to have an incentive for that person to enter the hospital-slash-prison…”

Lock up nonviolent drug abusers who are not infringing on the rights of anyone else? Give “experts” control over the freedom of people who have not shown themselves to be a danger to anyone else based on the word of other “experts” that they are a “drug abuser?” What could go wrong?

On top of all this, Marino has had a career riddled by allegations of corruption and has gone out of his way to protect companies that make – and lie about – dangerous and addictive prescription drugs. But many suspect that his nomination to the post of Drug Czar is the payoff for his early and rabid support for Trump’s candidacy.

For their part, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is mobilizing support to abolish the office of Drug Czar completely. “NORML opposes Marino’s appointment to Drug Czar and we further call for this anti-science position to be abolished entirely,” the organization said in an action alert.

“The Drug Czar’s office is a remnant of a bygone era when US drug policy was framed as a ‘war’ fueled largely by rhetoric and ideology. In 2017 we can do better and we must. The majority of Americans view drug abuse as a public health issue, they favor regulating cannabis as opposed to criminalizing it, and they are demanding policy changes based on facts.”

Ignorance by itself can be dangerous, but when it is combined with power it can have disastrous consequences for many people.

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