Richard Baum to Be Trump’s Acting Drug Czar

Published on March 29, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
President Donald Trump listens during an opioid and drug abuse listening session, Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump has nominated Richard Baum to be acting White House Drug Czar, Dan Diamond of Politico reports. Baum has worked for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in a variety of positions over the past two decades.

The White House “drug czar” title is unofficial shorthand for the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which oversees the White House’s drug policies. Baum, a professor at Georgetown University, will serve as acting director, which leaves open the possibility that Trump may appoint a higher-profile director sometime in the future.

Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority reports that Baum has said some pretty controversial things about drugs, including cannabis, in the past. Baum once said at a United Nations event that drunk driving is “less of a problem” than is driving under the influence of other drugs. He also said that spraying a killer fungus on drug crops in Colombia “looks incredibly promising.”

If Trump’s pattern of non-appointments holds, we might be waiting for the permanent drug czar for quite a while.

U.S. News reporter Steven Nelson noted that a White House official said Baum would just be a caretaker at ONDCP, “while the president makes the very serious choice” about the permanent drug czar.

How long will Baum be the acting drug czar? It’s anybody’s guess. If Trump’s pattern of non-appointments holds, we might be waiting for the permanent drug czar for quite a while.

In related news, a draft of a Trump administration executive order that establishes the President’s Commission on Combating Opioid Abuse, Addiction, and Overdose is being circulated around the administration.

Under Trump, Legal Cannabis Is a Deportable Offense 

The commission is said to be chaired by New Jersey’s anti-cannabis Gov. Chris Christie.  According to reports by Angell and Politico, the commission seems to be mostly focused on expanding access to treatment, and will also, within 90 days, “make recommendations for potential legislative or regulatory changes in federal criminal law or processes, to facilitate treatment and recovery for offenders who suffer from addiction, and the use of prisoner reentry programs to help sustain recovery after incarceration with a consideration for the impacts on children.”

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Gage Peake
Gage Peake
Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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