Biden Picks Former West Virginia Chair Of Cannabis Advisory Board As Top Drug Policy Official: Dr. Rahul Gupta

Biden Picks Former West Virginia Chair Of Cannabis Advisory Board As Top Drug Policy Official: Dr. Rahul Gupta

President Biden has chosen the former chair of the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, Dr. Rahul Gupta, as the new head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the nation’s main body governing drug policy issues.

The nomination still awaits confirmation by the Senate.

The decision could have implications in the country’s position on federal cannabis policy, considering Gupta's substantial role in the development of West Virginia’s medical marijuana program.

Gupta, who also served as West Virginia’s health commissioner, has led Biden’s transition team on drug policy issues and would be the first physician to serve as the country’s so-called drug czar.

“Dr. Gupta brings firsthand experience as a medical doctor and public health official using evidence-based strategies to address the overdose epidemic in West Virginia,” noted a White House statement.

Is There Still A Place For A Drug Czar in The White House? 

According to Marijuana Moment, Gupta has a positive view on medical marijuana and has previously touted its benefits, stating that cannabis can “help citizens suffering from debilitating diseases like cancer.”

Violet Cavendish, communications manager at the Marijuana Policy Project told Benzinga that the organization is encouraged by President Biden's nomination of Rahul Gupta to lead the ONDCP.

"His past work and public comments regarding medical cannabis are reasons to believe that he will not spend time or resources interfering with state medical or adult-use regulatory cannabis programs," Cavendish said.

Paul Armentano, deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told Benzinga that regardless of Gupta’s position on marijuana reform, “the drug czar’s office is a remnant of a bygone era when US drug policy was framed as a ‘war’ fueled largely by rhetoric and ideology.”

Armentano said there’s no place for ‘Czars’ in American politics, nor for agencies that embody the misplaced ideologies of the past decades.

“Today, most Americans view drug abuse as a public health issue, and nearly 70 percent of voters favor regulating cannabis as opposed to criminalizing it," Armentano said. "Voters today don’t want more of the same; they are demanding policy changes at the federal level — changes that include marijuana policy reform and the expungement of past records for low-level drug violations.”

Photo by Caleb Perez on Unsplash

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