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Trump Taps Tom Marino as Drug Czar. That’s Good (and Bad) for Legalization

April 11, 2017
Tom Marino, R-Pa. left, watches as President-elect Donald Trump, right, departs a rally in Hershey, Pa., Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. (Matt Rourke/AP)
News that US Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) is expected to head President Donald Trump’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), as CBS News reported today, should come as a bit of a relief to many in the legal cannabis industry.

He's not pro-legalization, but he's also no Chris Christie when it comes to cannabis.

After all, Trump’s past appointments in areas that touch on drug issues have tended to favor politicians with outspoken records against marijuana legalization. Attorney General Jeff Sessions famously stated that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was recently appointed chair of a presidential commission to fight opioid abuse, has long been an ardent prohibitionist.

If his past record is any indication, however, Marino would likely focus most of his energy on opioids, which claimed the lives of more than 50,000 Americans in 2016. A year ago he led an effort to move opioid legislation through the House, and he put out this Instagram post to mark the bill’s final passage:

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 1.07.37 PM

As the director of ONDCP—a role informally dubbed the “drug czar”—Marino would steer the administration’s policies on drug control. He doesn’t seem particularly interested in marijuana issues. In April 2016, as Pennsylvania legislators were debating a medical marijuana legalization measure that ultimately became law, PennLive polled various state leaders about their stand on the issue. Marino declined to respond.

Marino’s position on opioids seems to favor tougher enforcement at the street level, and more leniency for drug manufacturers.  A Washington Post investigation noted that his 2016 legislation made it more difficult to prosecute pharmaceutical companies feeding the nation’s opioid crisis.

Marino may be more skeptical of the idea that medical cannabis can be part of the solution to the nation’s opioid crisis.

Americans are becoming increasingly aware of studies showing that states with legal medical marijuana have lower rates of opioid abuse. Marino steps into that debate as a leader who has in the past embraced and defended pharmaceutical companies. He may thus be more skeptical of the idea that medical cannabis can be part of the solution to the nation’s opioid crisis.

Sessions has expressed similar doubts. “I’m astonished to hear people suggest we can solve our heroin crisis—have you heard this?—by having more marijuana,” he said last month. “I mean, how stupid is that! Give me a break!”

If formally appointed, Marino would unseat Richard Baum, who was just appointed two weeks ago as acting head of the ONCDP. It’s unclear whether Baum will stay on as Marino’s deputy or leave the office entirely.

Marino, a Republican, was an early endorser of then-candidate Trump in February 2016. “I will be voting for him” because he is “someone who will put the American people before personal gain and self-promotion,” Marino wrote in an op-ed that appeared later in the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Richard Baum to Be Trump’s Acting Drug Czar

Bruce Barcott's Bio Image

Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

View Bruce Barcott's articles

  • Steven Mulroney

    Imperial America is enslaved to BIG PHARMA……………

  • Maxwell Cannabinoid

    The United States simply does not want what is best for the citizens but what is best for big pharma.

  • Robbie Rolfe

    I’m sorry but I still don’t understand how someone can come up with a statement that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” that is a false statement if you ask me.

    • I totally agree because I know a lot of good, upstanding American citizens who love this country and pay their taxes and smoke marijuana. I hate it when politicians make blanket statements like that. Honestly, it just makes them look like the ass!

    • Baudman

      Consider the source Foghorn Leghorn Jeff Sessions!


  • Billy Wolf

    Another monkey in the never ending circus…..

  • ken

    We need Bernie Sanders

  • Jax

    “Sessions has expressed similar doubts. “I’m astonished to hear people suggest we can solve our heroin crisis—have you heard this?—by having more marijuana,” he said last month. “I mean, how stupid is that! Give me a break!””

    Yes, absolutly ridiculous that a drug could help a person get off of another drug!!!

    Except… what about nicorette gum or wellbutrin pills for not smoking, or benzodiazepines for the cessation of alcohol, there Mr. Dip Shit Sessions? BTW, Jeffry, you asked, “how stupid is that?”. It is as stupid as having a neandrathalic, crooked, KKK card carring, redneck, like yourself in charge of the justic department. Pretty damn stupid.

  • randolini

    The American people know the drug war is unwinnable and Big Pharma (aka: Wall Street) runs the country. They and Big Alcohol know that prescription and alcohol use are down in MJJ states. I don’t care what he does as long as he leaves Cannabis user alone. I figure as long as there are black ops financed by black market dollars, Mr. Morino will have no better luck than anyone else has. I mean come on, 45 years and 1 trillion dollars and drugs are more plentiful, better quality and cheaper. Is this any way to win a war?

  • hyjyljyj

    Yes, I’ve heard this. Medical doctors have success rates as high as 75% in getting opioid addicts weaned off the drug, using non-lethal, non-addictive cannabis, in 30 days. Jeff Sessions should google this (if he has a computer and knows what the Internet is). Once their cravings for opioids disappear, they drop the CB. But what if they don’t? It’s non-toxic, grows from the ground, and no one mugs little old ladies to by a joint. Win win win.

  • Brandon Allen Todus

    True true. What these people don’t admit is these drug’s are harmful to people. I’ve taken every drug in the book for schizophrenia for 20 year’s with the same results… Bullshit! Just about a year ago I started smoking pot again. Well let me tell you, my mind has never been this healthy since I was diagnosed twenty year’s ago. But yet, even though the same studies done for anti psychotics get the same results, without any harmful side effects as the drug’s, I still cannot get a card because these corporate America mother fuckers are making way to much money killing us with this shit that I wouldn’t feed my neighbor’s shit head dog. Also they like it being illegal because they’re selfish and don’t enjoy marijuana like a huge percent of our population doe’s. So in turn shit stays segregated, and these fuckers on the right side of the fence where they fuckin like to be.

  • roma_victors

    We survived Ed Meese…Jeff Sessions doesn’t scare me.

  • Scott Cannon

    PA Congressman Tom Marino has been picked to be the new Drug Czar despite his thousands of dollars the big pharm has put into his campaign funds.
    In regards to fracking for gas in Pennsylvania, the Congressman has been telling his constituents a whopper of a lie about the damages fracking has done to Pennsylvania water supplies. In this debate video televised by WVIA, a PA PBS affiliate, he states that fracking has caused no damage to the air and water, not one case.
    The Congressman’s statement was made 2 months after the PA DEP released information that stated that there were 243 cases of water contamination caused by the gas drilling practice. Since this information was released in 2014, there are now 284 cases of fracking contamination.
    I suggest you look into the Congressman’s natural gas contributions just as you are looking into his pharmaceutical contributions to see a pattern of corruption.

    Scott Cannon
    Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition