From The Charlotte Observer:
The drug epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s was horrific.
That period is no longer considered the worst drug epidemic in the nation’s history. The ongoing opioid crisis has, unfortunately, taken that title – because no one was lobbying Congress on behalf of crack cocaine dealers the way they have for large drug companies. That’s the devastating finding from a joint investigation by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post released last weekend. Between 2014 and 2016, the drug industry spent $106 million lobbying Congress for a law that makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies.
By the time the law passed last year, about 200,000 Americans had lost their lives due to opioid overdoses.
With opioid abuse raging, the new law “imposed a dramatic diminution of the agency’s authority,” DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency] Chief Administrative Law Judge John J. Mulrooney II wrote.
It makes all the talk of compassion for victims emanating from Congress sound hollow, especially considering how Congress also spent much of this year trying to undo the Affordable Care Act, which has been providing needed funds to fight the drug crisis.
The law seemed to be largely the result of a relentless push by Republican Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania – possibly the nation’s next drug czar – with strong assists from Sen. Orin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. A Republican-led Congress passed it on voice vote and the Obama administration signed it into law after the DEA raised no objections – after years of relentless lobbying apparently wore it down. Former Attorney General Eric Holder had warned against the law.
The law came after large drug companies hiring dozens of former DEA investigators and lawyers who knew just how to craft legislation that would make effective enforcement tougher to come by. It’s the latest example of laws and deregulation designed to make it easier for corporations to make more profits while hurting everyday Americans. And this time, the costs can’t be counted only in dollars – but in lives.
Opioid Marsha is running for Senate to replace Bob Corker in Tennessee. And then there’s this, from CNBC:
President Donald Trump faced growing calls Monday to dump his pick for the nation’s drug czar, Rep. Tom Marino, on the heels of an expose of Marino’s taking the side of drug companies over the Drug Enforcement Administration’s efforts to stem the prescription painkiller epidemic.
Trump said “we’re going to be looking into” that bombshell joint investigation by The Washington Post and CBS’ “60 Minutes” that was published and aired Sunday about Marino’s advocacy for a bill the DEA long opposed.
Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat whose state has been badly hit by that epidemic, in a letter to Trump said Marino, R-Pa., “has tied the hands of the DEA in their efforts to enforce our nation’s laws.”
“I urge you to withdraw the nomination of Congressman Tom Marino to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy,” wrote Manchin.
“His advocacy for this legislation demonstrates that Congressman Marino either does not fully understand the scope and devastation of this epidemic or ties to the industry overrode those concerns,” Manchin wrote the president.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Monday said, “I am calling on President Trump to withdraw the nomination of Representative Marino,” NBC News reported.
“Confirming Rep. Marino as our nation’s drug czar is like putting the wolf in charge of the hen house,” Schumer said.
UPDATE: From the New York DAILY NEWS:
Rep. Tom Marino has withdrawn from his nomination to become the nation’s next drug czar over controversy from a report that he helped the pharmaceutical industry flood the United States with addictive opioids, according to President Trump.
“Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!” Trump wrote.
This came the same day Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he was going to review the law Marino ushered in that allowed drugmakers to get away with reckless opioid sales.
Marino was an early supporter of Trump’s campaign, and Trump continued to speak favorably about him even after the report dropped.