Editorial: Marino is a mistake for drug czar

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., led congressional efforts to limit the DEA’s fight against drug companies that contribute to the opioid crisis. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

If President Donald Trump wanted to spit in the face of his most ardent supporters, he probably couldn’t have chosen a crueler way to do it than with his nomination of a new drug czar last month.

Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), who represents one of the whitest, most rural and most pro-Trump districts in the state, received the nod from Trump to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The office directs federal efforts to stem both the international and domestic drug trade and works against drug abuse in the United States.

While Marino might be appealing to the president because he represents some of the voters who handed Trump Pennsylvania in the 2016 election, he is perhaps among the most ethically unqualified candidates that Trump could have chosen to direct the nation’s drug policy. It’s imperative now that he withdraw Marino’s nomination for the position.

On what is perhaps the most important drug related issue for the country and unquestionably the most important for Pennsylvania — the opioid crisis — Marino’s record is inescapably despicable. A joint report from the Washington Post and “60 Minutes” released this weekend documented Congress’s efforts — led by Marino — to defang the Drug Enforcement Administration’s fight against drug companies contributing to the opioid crisis.

It’s obvious that there’s a close connection between the pharmaceutical industry and the ever-increasing number of opioid overdoses in our region and around the country. In West Virginia, one of the states worst hit by the opioid crisis, a letter from the House Energy and Commerce Committee found “extraordinary amounts of opioids from distributors beyond what the population could safely use.”

The DEA has the responsibility to halt abusive behaviors from drug manufacturers that cause public health crises like the one currently unfolding, claiming over 60,000 lives nationwide last year. But since Marino sponsored and pushed a bill through Congress in April 2016 drastically reducing the agency’s ability to punish misbehaving pharmaceutical companies, the DEA hasn’t issued a single suspension order for any opioid distributor or manufacturer.

Marino has received a combined $92,000 in campaign donations from the pharmaceutical industry, according to the Post-”60 Minute” report. But as Marino collected donations and pushed deregulation, his district suffered from the opioid crisis — just two hospitals in his district had to treat an astounding 51 cases of heroin overdoses over 48 hours in July. If Trump wants to keep any of his key campaign promises he can’t continue supporting Marino.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) submitted a letter to the president yesterday urging him to withdraw his nomination of Marino for a position of authority for which he is so egregiously unfit.

We echo Manchin’s demand, and suggest that Trump — who ran on a platform of helping “forgotten” Americans fight politicians owned by lobbyists — demonstrate where his true allegiances lie, either with the afflicted people of Appalachia or with Marino and “the swamp.”

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