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Donald Trump Reportedly Plans to Gut the Drug Czar's Office

His drug czar nominee has bowed out, and the agency's budget is allegedly slated for a buzzcut.

Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.) announced yesterday that he won't be the first drug czar of the Trump era. "Due to a critical illness in my family, I have, with regret and the utmost respect, informed the White House that I must withdraw my name from consideration for Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy," Marino said in a statement.

Who will Trump nominate in his stead? It might not matter. Politico's Dan Diamond reports that Trump plans to reduce the agency's budget by 95 percent:

Only Congress can abolish the Office of National Drug Control Policy, but Trump can certainly slash its budget. And while Diamond's tweets suggests that the ONDCP plays a pivotal role in addressing the opioid crisis, there are plenty of actual harm reduction advocates who would be happy to see the agency close up shop. (Update: Diamond has the full numbers out in a piece at Politico. The ONDCP's budget would decrease from $388 million to $24 million; the high-intensity drug-trafficking program and drug-free communities support program would be "zeroed out completely"; and the 70-person staff could be reduced by as many as 33 positions.)

"If Trump's volunteering to abolish the office, I say, 'Go for it,'" Ethan Nadelmann told Pacific Standard in February (the first time we heard rumors of the agency's demise).

The former executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Nadelmann was advocating medication-assisted therapy, maintenance doses of heroin, clean needle exchanges, and safe injection facilities long before Obama's first drug czar conceded that America could not arrest its way out of the drug problem. Nadelmann continued to call for those evidence-based, life-saving policies after the federal government continued trying exactly what it says it can't successfully do. And you know what? He's likely right that no Trump appointee will embrace meaningful drug policy reform.

Michael Botticelli, Obama's last drug czar, came close. He supported expanding access to naloxone, the overdose-reversal drug, but was reactionary on marijuana. Thus far, Trump's vision for American drug policy makes Michael Botticelli look like Tommy Chong. Marino floated putting drug offenders in "hospital-slash-prison." Gov. Chris Christie, who Trump appointed to head up a special commission on opioids, recently said that marijuana reformers want to "poison our kids" for "blood money." And then there's Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines. In December, Trump declared that Duterte, who has overseen thousands of extrajudicial murders of drug users and sellers, was fighting the drug war the "right way." He's since invited Duterte to visit the U.S.

Diamond's report this morning, like the Standard's story from February, is pegged to White House documents. Normally, smoke means fire. But on the ONDCP question, I can't tell whether the smoke is emanating from a wastebasket or a dumpster. The agency's website is still blank. Current employees are largely unreachable (though welcome to email me!). Former ONDCP employees have told me their contacts at the agency have gone silent. But you know what federal agency with drug policy ramifications is not dormant? The Justice Department.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been touring the country promoting increased enforcement and belitting the effectiveness of treatment. The DEA is seeking to build its own corps of prosecutors separate from the U.S. Attorney system. The Justice Department is staffing up with tough-on-crime types who plan to roll back Attorney General Eric Holder's Smart on Crime initiative, which actually did reduce the federal prison population and the use of mandatory minimums for most drug (but not all) drugs.

In the grand scheme of the drug war, who might occupy the ONDCP's bully pulpit matters less than the army Sessions is building.

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  • ||

    This is your budget on Trump

  • juris imprudent||

    Give the job to Christie on the condition he gets his BMI below 30.

  • Hugh Akston||

    You really expect Christie to grow to over 8 feet tall?

  • juris imprudent||

    With a luxuriant coat of fur.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Are y'all saying you "would" Christie, if he was a long-furred Wookie?

    Some nookie with a Wookie?

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Why only 8 feet tall? Graft a Pinocchio nose on the top of Christie's scalp, and he'd hit hit 12 feet in no time.

  • b4integrity||

    Chris Christie is soft on drugs. Christie is soft on the two hard drugs tobacco & alcohol, the most deadly & dangerous of ALL drugs. Christie has surrendered to the tobacco & alcohol drug lords.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Of course Christie is soft. That fat fuck is just one big soft blob.

  • Michael Hihn||

    But he's an adult -- or at least acts like one..

  • Juice||

    Someone must have told him that it was Joe Biden's baby. Looks like Joe's gonna lose another one.

  • MikeP2||

    damn....too soon

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: HIT & RUN BLOG
    Donald Trump Reportedly Plans to Gut the Drug Czar's Office
    His drug czar nominee has bowed out, and the agency's budget is allegedly slated for a buzzcut.

    Really?
    If that is true, then maybe Trump the Grump is going the right direction in the notorious, unneeded and unwanted war on drugs.
    As the wise man said, "We'll see."

  • Zeb||

    The ONDCP doesn't do all that much. Look at DEA funding to see where the WOD is headed.

  • Nuwanda||

    Yup. My rule is where public statements appear to contradict each another, one in favor of reducing the state, the other in favor of increasing it or keeping the status quo, always bet on the latter.

    Both Trump and Sessions have had much to say about the scourge of drugs and the ease with which they cross the border. Trump has used drug trafficking as a major reason for the border wall. Defunding one agency doesn't indicate a change of philosophy, it simply means the money's being redirected, in this case probably to the front line.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    I'm ok with stopping smuggling. Keep that cheap shitty cartel pot out and buy good locally grown bud.

  • Jerryskids||

    I'm sure if Trump's cutting the ONDCP's budget it's because he's planning on doubling the DEA's budget.

    And it's not just the DEA building its own enforcement arm separate from the DoJ, it's all the agencies doing it. Congress and the President no longer control the government, the executive branch agencies are now running the show. They've all in one way or another said they're free to do as they please and you're not the boss of me and they've all got their own SWAT teams and their own sources of funding through civil suits now and even SCOTUS has said it's not their place to second-guess the administrative law interpretations of the agencies who write those laws. Excuse me, "rules and regulations", not laws. Only Congress can constitutionally pass legislation, so of course what these executive-branch agencies come up with aren't actually laws. Just sort of mandatory guidelines you'll be severely disincentivised for breaching.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Looks someone needs to appoint a spam tsar.

  • Trigger Warning||

    70 people.

    388,000,000 dollars.

    Holy fucking shit.

  • Michael Hihn||

    70 people.
    388,000,000 dollars.
    Holy fucking shit.

    You think that money is spent on them?
    Holy fucking shit.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Only Congress can abolish the Office of National Drug Control Policy, but Trump can certainly slash its budget

    No. ONLY Congress can slash the budget. The President can PROPOSE a slash, but that has no legal more weight than a proposal by you. And the GOP's statist socons likely have a deciding voice here, too.

  • b4integrity||

    Part 1

    Do you think President* Trump and AG* Sessions are deliberately refusing to answer my March communication to each of them about tobacco & alcohol and the CSA?

    https://tinyurl.com/doj-webform

    9:08 AM, Friday

    2017Mar17

    Attorney General Sessions:

    The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) states:
    "The Congress makes the following findings and declarations:
    (1) The Congress has long recognized the danger involved in the manufacture, distribution, and use of certain psychotropic substances for nonscientific and nonmedical purposes, and has provided strong and effective legislation to control illicit trafficking and to regulate legitimate uses of psychotropic substances in this country. Abuse of psychotropic substances has become a phenomenon common to many countries, however, and is not confined to national borders. It is, therefore, essential that the United States cooperate with other nations in establishing effective controls over international traffic in such substances."
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/21/801a

  • Michael Hihn||

    Do you think President* Trump and AG* Sessions are deliberately refusing to answer my March communication to each of them about tobacco & alcohol and the CSA?

    No.

  • b4integrity||

    Well Michael Hihn, how then do you explain the failure of both President* Trump and AG* Sessions to reply to my communications to them two (2) months ago?

  • Michael Hihn||

    (laughing) You asked if it was deliberate.

    No.

  • b4integrity||

    Part 2

    Tobacco & alcohol are psychotropic (mood-altering) substances, affecting mental activity, behavior, or perception when ingested.
    Tobacco & alcohol are the two most deadly & dangerous of all drugs.
    Tobacco drug use accounts for more drug deaths (~480,000 tobacco drug deaths/year) than the summation of the drug deaths from the use of all other drugs, including alcohol, combined!

    Are there any scientific and/or medical purposes for the use of the psychotropic substances tobacco & alcohol? If there are, what are the scientific & medical purposes for the use of tobacco & alcohol?
    What are the legitimate uses of the psychotropic substances, tobacco & alcohol, in this country?
    What is(are) the reason(s) that tobacco & alcohol are exempt from the CSA [21 U.S.C. § 802(6)]?

    Why haven't you called for Congress to either:
    1) Repeal the exemptions of tobacco & alcohol from the CSA and classify tobacco as the schedule I controlled substance it is by definition, and alcohol as the schedule II controlled substance it is by definition; or
    2) Repeal the entire CSA and abolish the DEA?

  • SIV||

    Trump essentially eliminating the ONDCP?

    #MAGA, motherfuckers

  • b4integrity||

    I anticipate the elimination of the ONDCP. Next I anticipate that President* Trump and AG* Sessions will eliminate the DEA.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Send them an email suggesting that.

  • b4integrity||

    I did. See above.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Send them an email suggesting that.

  • JMatt||

    Hopefully he keeps Cracker Jeff "hey-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn" Sessions in check. The optimist in me hopes the AG spot was just a political reward, and he's just letting him blather. Time will tell.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Correction: the Diamond tweet contains a typo. It should read "currently the lead agency CAUSING the opioids crisis." Same thing happened in 1924 Amerika during the War on Beer. Decriminalizing everything that competes with government subsidized opioids has lifted Portugal out of its chemical dependence on the European Union. Portuguese banks are the healthiest, and talk of a Porexit vote is getting really hard to drown out--according to the Portuguese Libertarian Party... that's partidolibertarioportugues on Wordpress.

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