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Pa. Rep. Marino to be Trump drug czar

April 12, 2017

According to published reports, Pennsylvania Representative Tom Marino, who serves a rural district hit hard by the nation’s opioid epidemic, is expected to be named the nation’s new drug czar by President Trump.

A former prosecutor, Marino served on a House committee to investigate ways to combat the opioid crisis and drafted legislation to curb drug trafficking. He also authored a controversial law, signed by President Obama, that some argued would undermine the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to pursue pharmacies and prescription drug distributors it believes have contributed to the addiction crisis.

A spokesman in Marino’s office declined to comment on the appointment to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

But Marino, who is in his third term representing Pennsylvania’s rural 10th Congressional District, is reportedly completing the paperwork to step down from his seat and take the top job in the drug control office under Trump. He served on the president’s transition team executive committee.

Marino is perhaps best known in the drug policy realm for co-sponsoring a bill known as the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016.

Ostensibly, the law was crafted to increase coordination between the DEA, pharmacies, and distributors. But critics argued it effectively limits the DEA’s power by requiring the agency to follow a new process to shut down distribution centers or other parties it suspects are contributing to the illegal sale and use of prescription drugs.

The law gives those distributors 30 days to correct any lapses or suspected regulatory violations. Marino and other sponsors argued the legislation clarified the rules of when the right to distribute controlled substances can be revoked. But others argued it protects pharmacies and distributors suspected of wrongdoing, and gives them more leeway to pursue profits at the expense of people addicted to prescription drugs.

After the bill was signed by Obama last year, Marino said it struck the right balance between access to medicine and enforcement.

“Prescription drug abuse is a serious epidemic in our nation,” Marino said in a statement. “Until now, clear, comprehensive legislation that protected patients’ right to access necessary medication while stopping those who might abuse such drugs did not exist. … I look forward to seeing the good this law will do for those that suffer from addiction and the progress we have made in our fight against prescription drug abuse in the United States.”

Marino would be the second high-profile politician with an understanding of the opioid epidemic picked by President Trump to help him fulfill his pledge to combat the crisis. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been tapped to chair a federal commission to address the problem.

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