WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday nominated Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy as the nation’s “drug czar,” months after he had officially withdrawn from consideration.
Marino, an attorney who has served in the House of Representatives since 2011, has a lengthy track record of supporting enforcement-side drug policy as well as improved drug treatment.
Marino is a longtime supporter of Trump, who at one point dubbed him and Rep. Lou Barletta — another Pennsylvania Republican who endorsed Trump early in his run — “Thunder and Lightning.” Both later served on the president’s transition team.
Marino was rumored to be a candidate to help ONDCP throughout the spring, but cited his mother’s health when he took himself out of the running.
He has advocated for “placing non-dealer, non-violent drug abusers in a secured hospital-type setting under the constant care of health professionals” if they plead guilty to a drug possession charge, as he said last year at House hearing on preventing the children of drug abusers from harm. The criminal charge, under his proposal, would be dropped upon successful completion of a treatment program.
“The charges are only filed to have an incentive for that person to enter the hospital-slash-prison, if you want to call it,” Marino said.
In 2016, Marino co-authored a law that passed with bipartisan support but drew criticism for limiting the Drug Enforcement Agency’s power to crack down on pharmacies and some distributors it determined had acted in ways that contributed to the opioid crisis. The law, Marino said then in a statement, was meant to protect the rights of patients in need of prescription painkillers while also acting to prevent abuse.
The bill was heavily supported by pharmaceutical wholesalers.
Marino would inherit the role of drug czar during an ever-worsening epidemic of opioid overdoses.
“The opioid epidemic is impacting communities across the country and the Office of National Drug Control Policy plays a critical role in coordinating the federal response to this crisis,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), a co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, in a statement. “I’m pleased that there will finally be a director of ONDCP but the real test will be if there is concrete action from the Administration to address the opioid epidemic.”
He is also likely to be questioned for his stance on medical marijuana. He has voted numerous times against language that would limit the Justice Department’s ability to interfere with state-level marijuana policies.
Marino’s appointment must be confirmed by the Senate, which will reconvene on Tuesday after a monthlong summer recess.