Longtime anti-pot congressman, Rep. Tom Morino (R), is President Donald Trumps’s pick to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Cannabis Now reached out to leading cannabis advocacy groups in the country to get their thoughts on the incoming drug czar.
Marino has voted against cannabis progress whenever given the opportunity: he is the antithesis of the country’s movement towards more rational policies around cannabis, but sadly, reformers aren’t all that shocked that the Trump administration’s newest pick has backward ideas on pot policy.
Robert Capecchi, Director of Federal Policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, expressed bullish optimism on the prospects of legal cannabis, even in the face of staunch federal opposition.
“We are disappointed but not at all surprised to hear a marijuana prohibitionist is being selected as the next drug czar. After all, whoever fills the position is required by law to oppose any attempts to legalize the use of marijuana for any purpose,” he said. “Despite a steady stream of anti-marijuana drug czars over the past several decades, 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use and eight states have enacted laws regulating it for adult use — we expect that trend to continue regardless of who the next drug czar is.”
Capecci remains hopeful that, despite another prohibitionist pick, Trump remains loyal to his campaign trail promises, but added “it is also critical that Congress take action to ease the tension that exists between state and federal marijuana laws.”
NORML Executive Director, Erik Altieri, who called a Marino a “noted drug warrior” in regards to his perfect score voting against cannabis legislation, said the drug czar’s job description is out of date — and that’s the issue.
“The drug czar is required, by its own job description, to oppose any changes to current drug policy including marijuana legalization,” Altieri said. “This type of myopic thinking does nothing to advance sensible drug reform in this country and ensures modern science and social data is precluded from even being involved in the conversation. NORML strongly opposes Marino’s appointment, but we also further call for this anti-science, outdated position [drug czar] to be abolished entirely.”
Marijuana Majority Chairman, Tom Angell, said the position is fading from relevance.
“It’s hard to imagine a worse pick than someone who has voted against even the most narrow amendments to protect state CBD laws that kids with epilepsy rely on,” Angell said. “The silver lining here, I suppose, is that ONDCP is decreasingly relevant in the eyes of lawmakers when it comes to drug policy decisions at both the state and federal levels.”
We reached out to Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance, who will be expected to spar with the new czar on a far wider range of issues than just cannabis in the years to come. The government relations director, like his peers, told Cannabis Now that Marino would be a step backward.
“At a time most Americans want to treat drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue, he still favors the kind of 1980s-style drug war policies that have filled our prisons with drug offenders,” he said.
According to data from the Prison Policy Initiative, the American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 942 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails and 79 Indian Country jails — as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers and prisons in the U.S. territories.
If Marino tries to turn back the clock on cannabis policy, you can count on millions more prisoners to fill our prisons under his watch.
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