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Pot Matters: The New Dogs of War, Pt. 2

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Don’t miss the first part of this column, HERE.

Congressman Tom Marino from Pennsylvania has been widely reported as the Trump administration’s appointment as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).  As previously reported in HIGH TIMES , Marino is “just another anti-marijuana, pro-pharma extremist.”

Considering the pro-police, pro-drug war policies emerging over in the Department of Justice (see Part One), Marino will be another new dog of war unleashed by the Trump administration.

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post reports that “Marino’s congressional voting record is that of a hard-liner on marijuana issues, and he recently said that he’d like to put nonviolent drug offenders in some sort of “hospital-slash-prison.'”

In the House, Marino has repeatedly voted against a measure to prevent the Justice Department from interfering in state-level marijuana legalization, voted against allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend marijuana where state’s allow it and voted against pro-hemp legislation.  Marino has even opposed allowing greater access to CBD oil,

According to the Washington Post, Marino told a reporter that “the only way I would agree to consider legalizing marijuana is if we had a really in depth-medical scientific study. If it does help people one way or another, then produce it in pill form.” But, he added, “I think it’s a states’ rights issue.”

Marino’s views about mandatory treatment for drug offenders, though, stakes out an even more extreme position than most opponents of drug policy reform.

Nonviolent drug offenders should be placed, he argues, in a secure hospital for intensive treatment and under intense supervision. This policy position echoes a proposal of notorious anti-marijuana crusader Gabriel Nahas. A prominent supporter of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, Nahas once provided a paper for the anti-marijuana group PRIDE advocating the quarantine of all illegal drug users.

Chris Roberts made the case earlier for readers of HIGH TIMES that “Marijuana legalization’s new enemy number one . . . [is] Big Pharma.

According to The Hill, “The third-term congressman in the last Congress offered the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act, which aimed to further restrict cross-border drug trafficking. It also controversially proposed greater collaboration between the Drug Enforcement Administration and prescription drug companies in the fight against opioid abuse.” CBS reports that “Marino’s bill, which President Obama quietly signed last spring, effectively curbs the DEA’s ability to prosecute corporate drug distributors who have profited from the opioid epidemic.”

As explained in the Los Angeles Times, Marino also supported a bill that allows companies suspected of overlooking suspicious orders for opioid drugs to fend off legal proceedings by submitting a corrective action plan. The bill also makes it harder for the DEA to suspend their licenses. During hearings on “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016” Marino “told the head of the DEA to “seek collaboration with legitimate companies that want to do the right thing.”

Of further interest, given Marino’s choice to head ONDCP, is that the LA Times reports that “Marino . . . received $136,000 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry since 2011, [and] declined to be interviewed [for their article]. In a statement, he said the law doesn’t impede the DEA’s enforcement ability.”

At ONDCP Marino’s influence over drug policy will be moderated by the agency’s role as the coordinator of the federal government’s far-flung anti-drug abuse efforts and its overall responsibilities to engage in public relations activities. Nonetheless, as the Trump administration considers returning ONDCP to cabinet-level status, Marino will have a prominent platform from which to push his reactionary views about drug policy issues.

A pattern in beginning to emerge, and it is not just a return to the War on Drugs rhetoric and policies of the Reagan years.

The pro-police policies emerging at the Department of Justice represent an embrace of the politics of fear, and the pro-pharma policies favored by the new chief of ONDCP embrace the politics of profit. Neither is surprising, as both fit in well with the political posturing utilized by Trump to win the White House.

But unleashing the dogs of war embraces the failed policies of the past, policies the reform movement have faced, defeated and disgraced time and time again.

Previously in Pot Matters: The New Dogs of War, Pt. 1
For all of HIGH TIMES’ culture coverage, click here.

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