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Friday, August 18, 2017

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

President Donald Trump is expected to soon nominate Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) to be director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (also referred to as the drug czar). Marino, a former prosecutor with no background in health or treatment, supports a punitive, 1980s-style approach to drugs, including mass incarceration and coerced treatment, even for marijuana. Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, gave him an F in its 2016 congressional voter guide.

He is a disastrous choice and must be opposed.

As a U.S. attorney, Marino showed preferential treatment for a friend convicted of cocaine offenses, while showing little mercy for others caught up in the criminal justice system. In Congress, Marino voted against the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prohibits the Department of Justice from undermining state medical marijuana laws. He has called for “hospital-slash-prison” facilities where people caught possessing marijuana or other drugs would be forcibly detained.

Studies show that coerced treatment rarely works. Treatment works best when it is voluntary and meets the individual needs of the person struggling with substance-related issues. A Human Rights Watch report found that hospital-prison policies in China, Cambodia and other Southeast Asia countries led to enormous human rights violations. An evaluation by the Drug Policy Alliance of existing coercive drug courts in the U.S. found enormous problems with little positive impact. Combined with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ support for executing drug traffickers, the Trump administration could move U.S. drug policy in horrific, un-American directions.

The nomination of Marino would represent yet another about-face by President Trump. Earlier this year the Trump administration signaled that it would seek to eliminate the drug czar’s office, determining that it was wasteful. On the campaign trail, Trump said that marijuana should be a state issue and that he supports medical marijuana “100 percent,” positions Marino holds the opposite views on.

The nomination of Marino for drug czar also would come at a critical time in U.S. drug policy. Currently, 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight states have legalized marijuana for non-medical use. Polls show a majority of voters believe marijuana should be legalized like alcohol; a super-majority believes the federal government should let states set their own marijuana policies without federal interference. Dozens of states have passed drug-sentencing reform and a bipartisan coalition in Congress came close to reforming federal drug sentencing laws last year.

The American people are moving in one direction and the Trump administration is moving in another. There are few hardcore supporters of the failed war on drugs left, but those that are seem to all be getting jobs in the administration. America can do much better. Our nation needs a drug czar who wants to treat drug use as a health issue, not someone who wants to double down on mass incarceration.

President Trump shouldn’t nominate Marino for drug czar, and senators should vote against confirming him if he is nominated.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance blog.

Bill Piper is director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

6 Responses to Trump’s Apparent Drug Czar Pick Would Double Down On Failed Drug War

  1. Trump has a knack for choosing an Administration that gravitates towards the punitive approach to problems—mass incarcerations, harsh rhetoric towards those who have different personal values that “conservative” elements of society, threats of fire and brimstone for those who commit offenses such as missing church service, getting married without parental permission, engaging in certain activities behind closed doors in the privacy of one’s home, smoking a joint, etc.
    As for those who bombed churches in the past, or gunned down Civil Rights workers, for those who brought drugs into the black neighborhoods beginning in the mid-20th century, abusing alcohol, raping women, the government was slow to act, if at all in most cases. During those times, Nixon, Reagan, and other conservatives would opt for the stiffest and harshest penalties against the black community for the slightest drug offenses.
    The disparity in punishments against blacks as opposed to those who “look sufficiently British”—(a criterion for granting social privileges and rights during the early centuries of America’s settlement by humans from across the Atlantic)—was based on the perception and false notion of “Race”.

    Therefore, it is no surprise to see the likes of Trump and the GOP still enamored with the thoughts of punitive action to address any problem which arises. While Trump so far is rewarded for his transgressions, to numerous to mention, by being elected President by an Electoral College. What a grand hypocrisy and contradiction in moral values we have in America, and constant attendance at church seems to propel many to go back in time before the Message of Jesus was given, rather than move forward, or at least pretend to adhere to Christian values and sentiments.

    • On various occasions I have tried to convince acquaintances that race is a social concept, not a physical one. Skin color is a physical reality, but race is not. Of course, few people I have discussed this with seem to accept what race really is, and most consider skin color equivalent to “race.” The word race is used to classify people according to physical characteristics that often are associated with social, intellectual, or psychological traits. So “white” people are often viewed as having abundant natural intelligence, being non-violent, and being industrious, while “black” people are often viewed as having less native intelligence, having violent tendencies, and being lazy. The idea that these supposed “character traits” are the result of social situations and not skin color is usually never considered by those on the right, even when copious examples to the contrary are presented (e.g., brilliant, successful “black” people and stupid, lazy “white” people). The simple fact is that some people have social (in the broadest sense) opportunities that are completely unavailable to others, both “black” and “white,” and Trump and his Republican cronies are intent on ensuring that those social opportunities accrue only to those who already have, not to those who aspire. (I am sure that this post will draw some objections from those who will say that I am wrong about race and that it is a real thing. backed up by many centuries of research. In fact, race as a concept came about to justify the enslavement of supposedly inferior people from Africa. . . . But I’ll still hear from Trumpists and their ilk about the “truth” of race.)

      • Thank you for your insightful comments. The issue of “Race” and skin color are perhaps THE most potent factor in leading to divisiveness in the world—more so in the western hemisphere.
        So much so that Shoghi Effendi was spurred to expand on what Baha’u’llah, and later, Abdu’l Baha, both had earlier allotted considerable ink and paper on expatiating on these injurious perceptions. Shoghi Effendi in a letter dated 1938 to the American Baha’is referred to its eradication as America’s “Most Challenging Issue”.

        With individuals like yourself helping with the task of informing our fellow human beings, and with your keener insight and penetrating perception, attributes which seem stronger in women to a large degree than the average male, the task of gradually curtailing and eliminating this social/spiritual disease won’t be insurmountable.

  2. Continuing in the tradition of gathering folks, like Sessions, wanting to take us back to the golden ’50s. The 1850s.

  3. One other aspect of this troubling appointment, one of scores by Trump, is the profit-motive. This additional signature of America’s materialism, as a general pattern of behavior, comes about because of the economic mechanism devised to make money based on a model of “Prisons-for-Profit”.
    With this model, it is more advantageous to maintain a penal system that makes money based on mass incarcerations. And mass incarcerations aren’t sensible unless you have a large penal infrastructure which functions by exacting money for imprisoning; and to insure a steady flow of prisoners, the model systemically induces government to devise mechanisms like harsh penalties for the most insignificant offenses.

    After Reconstruction and the freeing of cheap labor through slavery, slavery was transformed into a system call Peonage. For an offense such as stealing a chicken from your neighbor would by law land the offender in Parchman Prison, a gulag-like fortress in northwest Miss. (http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=931) whose primary function, besides a punishment for ordinary and serious crimes, was to “farm” out black prisoners, in order to stimulate the flagging southern economy. The plan involved keeping those convicted of stealing chickens to a life-tine of peonage and perpetual indebtedness(much like being a serf in the Middle Ages in Europe)—a system which boosted Mississippi’s economy significantly.

    The mentality of the GOP today, and the Southern “Democrats” then, are in synch insofar as money being the primary motivator for the penal system. And the “War” on whatever is the best issue to declare a target for “wars” on the home-front, dovetails nicely with the underlying principle of materialism—-a defect in policy and ideals more pronounced in “Conservatives” than other segments of America.

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