The White House confirmed to CBS News that Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino will be officially nominated as the new Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), informally known as the nation’s Drug Czar. Marino, who serves as a third term Representative from Pennsylvania’s rural 10th district, was the original pick in April by the administration, but the announcement was delayed due to a critical illness in his family.
“My understanding is that Tom has a deep understanding of the issue and is excited to get started,” explained Kevin Sabet in April to CBS News. Sabet is the founder and director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (project SAM) and a former ONDCP advisor.
Unfortunately, his “understanding” is not based in reality or effectiveness as Tom Angell at Mass Roots points out. Marino’s comments and positions over the past few years indicate he will be yet another “law and order” director with little regard for facts surrounding the failed war on drugs. Angell reports:
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.
As with most former Drug Czars, Marino is a former prosecutor from his home state. He spent years in that position perpetuating the drug war and prosecuting non-violent drug offenders.
He has spoken out against the new Pennsylvania medical marijuana law that passed last year and indicated that medical marijuana patients are using the laws as an “excuse” to smoke weed. But, he also said he believes in states rights and told a local newspaper, “if I don’t like it, I can pick up and move.”
But his support of prescription drug dealers went to far, at least for one DEA leader. In 2014 the Drug Enforcement Administrations head of Diversion Control publicly accused the Congressman and others of “supporting criminals” by sponsoring a bill that would hamstring their ability to punish pharmacists and distributors who beak the law. The bill gave them a chance to take “corrective action” before the bad actors’ registration could be suspended or revoked.
“It is my understanding that Joe Rannazzisi, a senior DEA official, has publicly accused we sponsors of the bill of ‘supporting criminals.’ This offends me immensely,” Marino said to the House Judiciary Committee in response to the accusation. “Such conduct is not acceptable and is unbecoming of the DEA, an agency that I have the utmost respect for.”
He also testified to the House Ways and Means Committee that drug abusers should still be locked up, but housed in “hospital/prisons” instead of standard jails. Once the addict has plead guilty and submitted themselves to treatment and “intense supervision”, their charges would then be dropped. His submitted testimony said:
“One treatment option I have advocated for years would be placing non-dealer, non-violent drug abusers in a secured hospital-type setting under the constant care of health professionals. 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, if you want to call it.”