Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino wanted to be the nation's next drug czar in the worst way. Then came revelations that he did a favor for a friend charged with cocaine sales when he was a prosecutor in 1998 and also worked for a convicted felon.
On May 4, Marino claimed he was withdrawing his name from consideration as Trump's drug czar because his mother is ill and he can't leave Pennsylvania and move to Washington, D.C.
"Due to a critical illness in my family, I have, with regret and the utmost respect, informed the White House that I must withdraw my name from consideration for Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy," he stated. "I thank the president for the enormous honor of considering me for this lead role in the effort to address one of the most pressing issues facing our nation and my state today: the opioid epidemic. I will remain in Congress and continue to support President Trump in whatever way I can."
The day before, U.S. News reported:
"Issues from Marino’s past have surfaced in the press, including an allegation that as an elected county prosecutor he went judge-shopping in 1998 to win a cocaine-dealing expungement for a friend, hand-delivering a request to a jurist after the request was denied by a more senior judge.
"In 2006, Marino served as a reference for businessman and convicted felon Louis DeNaples, who sought successfully to open a casino. Marino was a U.S. attorney, and the Associated Press reported his office was investigating DeNaples at the time of the reference.
Rep. Marino (R-Pa.), 64, a former federal prosecutor re-elected last year for a fourth term in the House from the rural city of Williamsport, has opposed medical or recreational cannabis-law reforms. More disturbingly, he supports mandatory in-hospital treatment for anyone caught with an illegal drug.
Drug Policy Action gave him an F in its 2016 congressional voter guide. “He’s a disastrous choice for drug czar and needs to be opposed,” says Bill Piper, the Drug Policy Alliance’s senior director of national affairs. “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. There are few hardcore supporters of the failed War on Drugs left, but those that are seem to be getting jobs in the administration.”
Marino voted against the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which protects patients and businesses from federal intervention in states that have legalized medical marijuana. The amendment finally passed the House in 2014, with bipartisan support.
He also voted against bills that would allow Veterans Administration doctors to prescribe marijuana and would loosen federal restrictions on the cultivation of hemp and production of CBD. “The only way I would agree to consider legalizing marijuana is if we had a really in-depth study,” Marino commented last October. “If it does help people one way or the other, then produce it in pill form. But don’t make an excuse because you want to smoke marijuana.”
He added: “I’m a states’ rights guy. The less the federal government is in my life, the best. I think it’s a states’ rights issue. If Pennsylvania passes it, and if I don’t like it, I can pick up and move.”
Marino’s home state legalized medical marijuana last year, over his objections. However, due to the revelations listed above and perhaps his mother's condition (heart ailment, dementia), he'll won't be moving to the Beltway anytime soon.
Who will be Trump's next choice to head the ONDCP?