Cannabis advocates are in a spin over a report that the White House has included the drug czar's office on a list of agencies it is considering for elimination.
The New York Times has obtained an internal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memo which put the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) alongside a group of other agencies which Republicans have long sought to cut. Alongside the aforementioned office is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.
Unlike the other programs listed in the leaked document, the ONDCP has not historically been featured as such a prominent target for elimination by mainstream Republicans. The closest they have come, was a former proposal to cut funding, but never to eliminate the agency.
Under then-Chairman Mike Pence, the group wrote:
"There is no solid evidence that media campaigns are effective in either preventing or reducing the use of illegal drugs. Savings: $1.3 billion over ten years ($631 million over five years)"
Any agency abolishment of this caliber would need to be approved by Congress. At the moment, the inclusion solely means that the agency is under consideration. However, Mick Mulvaney, OMB's new director, regularly voted for marijuana policy reform amendments as a congressman, so it is plausible that that the axe could fall.
Alan Rappeport, the New York Times reporter who first broke the story with his colleague Sharon LaFreniere, told MassRoots in an email that there was no explanatory language in the OMB document justifying the proposed cut, simply that is name was listed amongst other programs.
While political perspectives are mixed, police do not necessarily share the view that abolishing the agency is the right move. The Fraternal Order of Police expressed its "deep concern" about the possible elimination of the office in a letter to President Trump. "Our nation is currently facing an epidemic of opioid-related deaths -- drugs now kill more people than gunshot wounds or car crashes", Chuck Canterbury, the group's national president, wrote. "The ONDCP plays a vital role in coordinating a national strategy to fight drug trafficking and reduce illegal drug use."
One person who should be especially interested in ONDCP's fate is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R).
Christie and President Trump reportedly discussed drug policy over lunch last week. Days later, the New York Post reported that he told his staff he will be taking a White House job. Aides to both parties quickly shot down this rumour. It was suggested, however, that Christie may compete to head an "independent opioids task force", something which may be required of the ONDCP is eliminated.
The previous administration's drug czar Michael Botticelli resigned at prior to the new administration. In a recent interview, he said that the new administration has not asked for his advice. "And we had no contact with anyone on the Trump transition team before I left," he said. "It's giving me and other people pause about to what extent this administration considers this a priority."
Potential extinguishing the rumours, Acting ONDCP Director Kemp Chester sent an email last week to stakeholders saying that the office is "still working hard" with Trump's team to "develop his drug policy framework for our nation going forward."
Also Politico recently reported that Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, "has taken ownership of opioid-abuse and and veterans affairs, a portfolio Trump cares deeply about."
Finally, ONDCP.gov redirects to a blank "placeholder' page, and an anonymous website called ONDCP Watch has a running counter of how long the agency has been offline, which is since President Trump took office on January 20th.
Information for this article was compiled from Tom Angell's article on MassRoots: Will Trump Fire The Drug Czar?