Murky past comes haunting America’s ‘drug czar’ nominee
Addiction What’s Trending Sep 06, 2017
Murky past comes haunting America’s ‘drug czar’ nominee

For President Donald Trump’s “drug czar” nominee Tom Marino, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, walking past the Senate approval will not be easy. For, his controversial past may come in the way of his victory. The president announced Marino as his nominee last week to helm the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

Interestingly, Trump’s announcement has come a couple of months after Marino himself withdrew from the consideration earlier, citing his mother’s ill health. Until April 2017, Marino was seen as a strong contender for the position of drug czar, who would have directed drug-control policies in the United States. However, the next month he withdrew himself.

Marino’s past may shadow clean sweep in Senate

Some past allegations are back to haunt Marino as his name was announced by Trump as his nominee. He had once allegedly indulged in “judge shopping” to exonerate a friend charged with cocaine dealing. Back in 1998, Marino, who was then an elected district attorney, hand-delivered a request to a judge to clear his friend Jay Kilheeney off a criminal record. Kilheeney was convicted six years earlier for distributing 2 grams of cocaine. The Lycoming County Common Pleas Judge Dudley Anderson had readily granted the expungement, in the first year of the bench. However, he retracted his decision after knowing that a senior judge, Kenneth Brown, had turned down the request just three weeks prior to him.

While serving as a U.S. attorney in 2006, Marino’s office was investigating a convicted felon Louis DeNaples. However, DeNaples successfully sought permission to open a casino because Marino served as a reference. As per an AP report, Marino soon resigned and started working for DeNaples in exchange of a hefty $250,000 pay check. Marino later decided to run for the Congress.

People also associate him with his earlier unsavory comments on drug users. He once said that drug users belong in a “hospital-slash-prison.” His remarks blemished the image of an addict and seems that rather than extending help, he wants them prosecuted.

It is likely that Marino’s past would crop up during senate hearings and members might rake up the charges against him before he gets the confirmation. Talking to Washington Examiner, senior director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, Bill Piper said senators would dig into Marino’s past during confirmation hearings.

“We thought he was gone,” remarked Piper. “We thought the opposition we raised made him think twice. It’s possible they dug him back up because they couldn’t find anyone else.”

Drug czar, a position that can make a difference

Belonging to the higher echelons, the position of the drug czar is a significantly responsible one, leading the national anti-drug efforts. It is a position that wields enough power to guide the anti-drug budgeting of other federal agencies.

According to Regina LaBelle, who was the chief of staff of the drug czar office during Obama’s presidency, “The most important issue for ONDCP and the director is that they operate in a bipartisan manner.” Hence, the person holding such a position should have the right attitude towards quelling the drug menace in the country.

Nevertheless, Marino has been a longstanding supporter of enforcement-side drug policy and proliferation of drug treatment programs. He remains a vociferous and long-term supporter of Trump.

Dealing with drug addiction

Treatment is the only harbinger for people struggling with addiction. Early treatment ensures that recovery is long-term, lest symptoms exacerbate and an addiction becomes more severe. If you have a loved one grappling with any addiction, seek immediate help.

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