It’s Time to Tell President-Elect Biden to Shut Down the Drug Czar’s Office

We are incredibly disappointed to learn that Patrick J. Kennedy, a cofounder of the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has mounted a public campaign to convince President-Elect Joe Biden to appoint him to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).  The head of this organization is commonly referred to as the Drug Czar.  Kennedy should never serve in this position.  In fact, given the paradigm shift in America relative to legalization and the number of states that have some form of legal marijuana, Kennedy is an anachronism relative to drug policy and reform.  For that matter, perhaps it’s time to shut down the ONDCP.

We’ll let national NORML describe their concerns below:

Former Senator Joe Biden was one of 87 Senators in 1988 who voted to authorize the creation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a/k/a the Drug Czar’s office. Now it is time for the Biden administration to abolish this agency.

The ONDCP represents a bygone era. Today, most Americans now agree that the adult use of marijuana ought to be legal, and the majority of states have legalized the substance for either medical or recreational use. There is no longer any legitimate need for the Drug Czar’s office or for a Drug Czar.

Think about this: The White House Drug Czar is required, by statute, “to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance that is listed in Schedule I” and to “ensure that no Federal funds … shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in Schedule I.” This narrow-minded, Flat Earth mentality refuses to acknowledge the reality that the majority of the country is now authorized to engage in the use of cannabis, and it mandates that US drug policy continue to be dictated by rhetoric and ideology rather than by science and evidence.

The Biden/Harris team pledged during the campaign trail to prioritize the reform of America’s failed and antiquated marijuana laws. Long-term, it can follow through on this pledge by eliminating the ONDCP. Short-term, it can respect this pledge by rejecting the plea for appointment by former Representative Patrick Kennedy for the position of US Drug Czar.

Currently, Patrick Kennedy is openly campaigning to be Drug Czar. NORML opposes his consideration for this appointment. Kennedy is a longtime opponent of legalization who has dedicated a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money to organize against marijuana policy reform. In fact, he co-founded with Kevin Sabet the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana — which has consistently lobbied against virtually every state and federal reform bill to legalize marijuana for either adult-use or for medical use. Further, while the group claims to support ‘decriminalizing’ penalties for the personal use of cannabis, it has failed to use its lobbying resources to advocate in favor of such policies in states like Virginia and in others that have done so. In 2014, Kennedy said “Incarceration is a powerful motivator,” in regard to his efforts to prevent the adult consumption of cannabis.

That is why we are asking you to join us in our opposition to the appointment of Patrick Kennedy for Drug Czar, and why we are hoping you will also join us in calling for abolishing the ONDCP.

You can sign a petition to President-Elect Joe Biden urging him to reject Patrick J. Kennedy for the Drug Czar position and to consider eliminating the ONDCP here.