Since his election to Congress in 2011 during the anti-tax, anti-government Tea Party movement, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania), the current choice to become the nation’s next drug czar, has been a staunch and reliable opponent of drug policy reform, and a sworn enemy of anything remotely marijuana-friendly.
A former federal prosecutor who resigned after apparently giving preferential treatment to an acquaintance with a cocaine charge, Marino voted against allowing military veterans to talk about cannabis with their doctors and opposed limiting the Justice Department’s ability to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana. He committed these violations of the small-government principles that he espoused to get elected all while receiving sizable campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry — and in return, Marino sponsored a bill of his own hamstringing the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
As the Washington Post and 60 Minutes reported on Sunday, in 2016, Marino authored a bill that severely limited the DEA’s authority to intercept “suspicious” opiate shipments from pharmaceutical companies, all while the opiate crisis spiraled out of control and became the nation’s number-one cause of accidental death.
A year later, with the situation even more dire — and with the areas of the country hit hardest by the opiate crisis voting overwhelmingly in favor of Donald Trump — Marino became the president’s choice to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy as the so-called “drug czar.”
This story should outrage the average American. For those of us touched by opiate addiction — for those of us who watched themselves or a family member fall victim to one of the billions of unnecessary pain pills indiscriminately dropped on the country — it should inspire protests and anger.
Congress and the pharmaceutical industry conspired to make addictive and dangerous drugs more available, at a time when everyone was fully aware of the deadly consequences.
For anyone involved the cannabis industry, anyone who enjoys using marijuana, or anyone committed to a more just future with reasonable and responsible drug policy — whether or not that future involves a legalized commercial marijuana industry — news of this real-life conspiracy are cold comfort. Yes, it was exactly as they said all along —and yes, it was all out in the open, for anyone with eyes to see.
This tragedy is only further twisted by the reality that Trump and Marino do not support something as simple as legal marijuana access, after research continues to suggest that medical cannabis can help with opiate addiction.
Saying “I told you so” might be satisfying, but only if anything actually changed.
As of now, it’s far from clear if Marino will survive the fallout to be sworn in as drug czar. Outraged Democrats, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, whose state was flooded with 780 million prescription pain pills — a supply sufficient to give each man woman and child in the state 433 doses each — called for Marino’s nomination to be rescinded.
On Monday, Trump was noncommittal, promising only to look into the report and to “look into” Marino whom he said was “a good man,” according to CBS News. (Other fellows Donald Trump has called “a good man” include Tom Price, the former secretary of Health and Human Services, another pharmaceutical industry-backed lawmaker who opposed cannabis reform at every turn and was relieved of his post after jetting around the world on the taxpayers’ dime — as well as fellow departed administration officials Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn and Reince Priebus.)
The president also, in sequence, teased and then spoiled a “major announcement” regarding the opiate crisis — an official declaration of an emergency — to be made sometime next week.
Whether or not Marino’s career at last ends, the lessons are obvious. Big Pharma is real, it is spectacularly callous in its pursuit of profit and it absolutely is writing laws and dictating American drug policy — including keeping legal cannabis away from Americans, some of whom will die for lack of cannabis access.
This is America today. As they say, admitting we have a problem is the first step.
TELL US, do you think the pharmaceutical industry should encourage opiate consumption?