Joe Manchin and Kevin Sabet Support Drug Czar Nominee Dr. Rahul Gupta

SAM’s Kevin Sabet on Dr. Rahul Gupta: "I hope drug policy gets back on the front burner with this selection.“

In April, we wrote about four potential nominees for the drug czar position which runs the Office of National Drug Control Policy. One of the four, Dr. Rahul Gupta, has been nominated. 

A frequent talking head on MSNBC, Gupta is the chief medical and health officer at March of Dimes and the former health commisioner of West Virginia. That state's conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin is supporting Gupta, who's been criticized by the National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery for "placing a moratorium on new opioid-treatment programs."

Others considered were acting drug czar Regina LaBelle, who was supported by the conservative group Smart Approaches to Marijuana; SAM co-founder Patrick Kennedy; and H. Westley Clark.

The White House is lauding Gupta, saying he'll be the first physician to run the ONDCP. The drug office is usually headed by forner police commissioners (Lee Brown, Gil Kerlikowske) or generals (Barry McCaffrey). The hope is Gupta can get a handle on the nation's opioid epidemic. More than 90,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, up 30% from 2019.

Manchin said: "Dr. Rahul Gupta’s nomination to serve as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy means someone with firsthand knowledge of the opioid crisis, especially in West Virginia, will be coordinating the national fight against the drug epidemic that continues to ravage our nation."

With LaBelle out of the running, Gupta received SAM's endorsement“Rahul has a strong public health background, but he also knows how to work with law enforcement and other stakeholders,” SAM's other co-founder Kevin Sabet gushed. “I hope drug policy gets back on the front burner with this selection."

It would appear Gupta's selection was made to appease Manchin, a swing vote in the Senate who's been asserting his new-found power with Biden in the White House and the Senate split down the middle.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.