President Donald Trump is poised to add another marijuana prohibitionist to his administration. Earlier this week, CBS reported that Trump is expected to name Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino (R) as the new head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which is informally called America's 'Drug Czar.'
The Drug Czar is responsible for advising the president on drug-control issues and coordinating efforts to combat the production, trafficking and use of illicit drugs in America. So Rep. Marino will have tremendous influence over the Trump administration's cannabis policy.
The rumored appointment of Marino is already being hailed by critics of marijuana legalization. “My understanding is that Tom has a deep understanding of the issue and is excited to get started,” Kevin Sabet - co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) - told CBS News.
That endorsement isn't reassuring for legalization activists though. Last summer, Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance told Civilized that Sabet is part of America's "unholy trinity" of pot prohibitionists. The other two members are President Richard Nixon and Harry J. Anslinger (America's first Drug Czar). So anything that Sabet consider a good move is bad news for the legalization movement.
Marino is not as anti-marijuana as other members of the Trump administration - like Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But he has consistently voted against cannabis reform bills in Congress. So we shouldn't expect him to speak up on behalf of Colorado, California and other states that have legalized recreational marijuana use.
And we shouldn't be surprised that Trump plans to tab a prohibitionist as drug czar, according to Robert Capecchi - Director of Federal Policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
“We are disappointed but not at all surprised to hear a marijuana prohibitionist is being selected as the next drug czar," Capecchi said via press release. "After all, whoever fills the position is required by law to oppose any attempts to legalize the use of marijuana for any purpose."
In other words, expecting the country's top drug critic to be pro-legalization is like expecting a butcher to support PETA.
Capecchi added that he is optimistic about the legalization movement's future despite the appointment of Marino.
“Despite a steady stream of anti-marijuana drug czars over the past several decades, 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use [29 if you count Louisiana] 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."
He also called on the Trump administration to honor the president's campaign promise to respect states that have legalized marijuana.
“President Trump repeatedly said he believes states should be able to determine their own marijuana policies, and the vast majority of Americans agree. We remain hopeful that the administration will respect state marijuana laws.”
We'll know more about the Trump administration's stance on cannabis when Attorney General Jeff Sessions' marijuana task force reports back to him this summer. For more on that, check out this article.
Banner image: Tom Marino (facebook.com/TomMarinoForCongress)