Who should be the Obama administration's Drug Czar?

November 20, 2008

With the announcement that Tom Daschle has been selected as the Obama administration’s Secretary of Health and Human Services speculation about the down market appointments has accelerated. For this audience, of course, everyone is nattering on about the next Director of the NIH. My nattering sources are moving in the direction of Elizabeth Nabel, M.D. current Director of NHLBI, but that’s just vague speculation.
One of my correspondents reminded me of a non-HHS appointment that is VERY important for NIDA funded scientists and indeed everyone interested in drug abuse issues.
Who will be the next Drug Czar?

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) About page:

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a component of the Executive Office of the President, was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.
The principal purpose of ONDCP is to establish policies, priorities, and objectives for the Nation’s drug control program. The goals of the program are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.

As part of the mission the ONDCP takes a pronounced interest in what NIDA is doing.
My appreciation for this is not the greatest but I can say that I’ve heard two Drug Czars address the annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and they have differed substantially. Gen (Ret) Barry McCaffrey displayed what seemed to be a very good knowledge of the drug abuse science, from basic to treatment research. Also a good appreciation for the balance of scientific knowledge about the nature of drug abuse. The current Czar, John P. Walters, came across as an uninformed knee-jerk anti-drug political person.
I’d prefer the former type of person, of course.
Complicating factor:
Barack Obama admits to adolescent drug use, is (apparently) a nicotine addict and expressed himself on the campaign train as nuanced on drug issues. Of course, drug issues were barely even a factor in this campaign. Nevertheless, he is a good bet to take an informed approach to the selection of a Drug Czar.
OTOH, apparently Joe Biden has a bit of a track record as a punitive hard acre* when it comes to drug policy and was apparently heavily involved in the initial creation of the ONDCP.
So it will be interesting to see if the ONDCP and the drug issue are given to Biden or not…
*Updated: Hmm, on further review I may have only poorly considered Biden’s most recent record. You can see the anti-Biden positions here and here. Nevertheless, he introduced a bill in 2007 to rename the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the National Institute on Diseases of Addiction and another one to redress the sentencing disparity between crack and powder forms of cocaine. So that seems like he’s on the more reasonable side of things.
Update 01/07/09: TierneyLab on the objections to Ramstad who is being floated as potential Drug Czar.

No Responses Yet to “Who should be the Obama administration's Drug Czar?”

  1. Beaker Says:

    Probably not Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.


  2. luke Says:

    if the goals of the drug czar are “to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences” then i look forward to a drug czar who advocates decriminalization.


  3. Nattering Nabob of Negativism Says:

    I nominate Tommy Chong.


  4. Kirk Muse Says:

    If the goal is reduced drug use and reduced
    crime rate the only solution is full re-
    legalization of all drugs.
    Only fully legal products can be regulated,
    controlled and taxed by any government agency.
    How much crime do we have associated with the drug caffeine? None.
    Why? Because it’s legal.


  5. pinus Says:

    In that vein, how much do the legal drugs nicotine and alcohol cost us each year…we regulate the heck out them? nothing.
    there is more to cost than crime.


  6. george.wiman Says:

    Drug policy is one area where I am strongly opposed to Joe Biden, who advocated the use of interstate commerce law to stick the federal nose where it wasn’t wanted. Even though I’ve never used illegal drugs, I recognize that some people will regardless. If we reserve criminality for extremely destructive drugs (defined as those which are more destructive than alcohol, which is a pretty high bar) than much of the harm will abate.
    Marijuana, particularly, does far less harm than the laws against it.


  7. heh heh Says:

    Damn, should’ve lobbied for DM while I was in D.C.


  8. Coturnix Says:

    If it is a woman, would she be a Czarina or an Empress? I was going to suggest Janice Joplin, but then realized that all of the best candidates are already dead of overdose…


  9. chris y Says:

    I nominate Tommy Chong.
    Well since Hunter Thompson and Jerry Garcia are no longer with us, he should more or less get the job by default.


  10. Scott Says:

    The new czar should dissolve his position on day one after legalizing all drugs of abuse. Turn each drug over to a big pharma (say Pfizer gets cocaine, Merck gets heroin, etc. they can hold an auction). Tax the revenues and give each citizen a $10K tax credit for health insurance.


  11. marilove Says:

    I nominate Willie Nelson!


  12. Aren’t we forgetting Snoop Dog? We are talking about the post of Drizzle Czille, after all.


  13. marilove Says:

    I vote for a Drug Czar Gang, Anonymoustache.


  14. DrugMonkey Says:

    Thanks Klem, she looks very intriguing. Have to read up a bit more on her for sure!


  15. James E. Gierach Says:

    Gierach For Drug Czar
    For the past 12 years, I have fought to the end the war on drugs. Both as a candidate for public office and citizen commentator, I assailed the drug war for making most American crises worse instead of better.
    I contended that drug war increased drug availability, use and addiction. It transformed “the land of the free” into “the prison capital of the world.” It put guns in the hands of kids, funded the gangs and caused turf wars and addict crime.
    The drug war corrupted our police, our kids and our institutions. It contorted law enforcement into an informant-based, “save yourself” perversion of The Golden Rule.
    The drug war put more drugs everywhere, encouraged the concoction of newer and more harmful drugs, and subverted truth in drug labeling, since all illicit drugs were painted with the same “just say no” label, a woefully uninformative warning.
    The drug war assaulted the Bill of Rights, due process of law and fundamental fairness more savagely than it did drugs or dealers.
    The drug war unfairly discriminated against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor as it institutionalized prison slavery and family fragmentation. It spread AIDS among injecting drug users and it worsened the health of addicts.
    Anti-drug propaganda promoted drugs by means of misconceived anti-drug messages sent to kids with a repetition that became the mother of drug-use learning. Drug-free promoters overlooked the reality that an anti-drug ad is first and foremost a drug ad.
    When Police Chief Lee Brown resigned as drug czar, I applied for the mind-altering substance job. Instead, President William Clinton appointed an Army general, signaling an escalation of the drug war. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, like his drug-war predecessors, failed to whip the drug problem and exasperated drug war harm exponentially.
    At that time, when former President Clinton attempted to “do something” about the runaway drug problem by elevating the director of Office of National Drug Control Policy ( “drug czar” ) to Cabinet-level status, I wrote that America needed an addiction dean more than a drug czar. But my warning fell on deaf ears.
    Too many drug years later, I remain ready, willing and able to serve as drug czar.
    From that office, I would civilize American drug policy by implementing hard reduction � a more tolerant, kinder, less incarcerating, more legalized, more treatment-oriented, “take the profit out of drugs” economic approach.
    Soon, if not already, an American majority will be on board. The people themselves are coming to the realization that it is the drug war itself that is at the heart of most American crises. While a difficult task, drug policy reform has the potential to mend these United States and make a world a better place.
    President Bush, although I am Democrat and you are a Republican, who better than a Democrat to send on this harrowing, thankless, mission impossible? Drug war is the impossible task of “spinning illicit drugs into wholesome children.” This is a job for a Democrat sent to the front lines by a Republican.
    I own a slingshot and welcome the opportunity to slay the drug war giant.
    James E. Gierach
    Oak Lawn
    Pubdate: Sun, 11 Feb 2001
    Source: Star (IL)
    Copyright: 2000 The Sun-Times Co.


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