In a departure from the norm, President Joe Biden nominated Rahul Gupta to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Gupta served as the lead on drug policy in Biden’s presidential transition team, is the former chair of the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, has previously played a key role in the implementation and expansion of a state medical marijuana program, and publicly recognized the therapeutic and economic potential of cannabis reform.
“President Biden’s nomination of Dr. Rahul Gupta to be the first physician ever to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is another historic step in the Administration’s efforts to turn the tide of our nation’s addiction and overdose epidemic,” the White House told The Washington Post. “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.”
Prohibitionists hoped the president would select former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), a co-founder of anti-legalization organization Smart Approaches To Marijuana (SAM), who had personally lobbied for the nomination.
“Rahul has a strong public health background, but he also knows how to work with law enforcement and other stakeholders,” said Kevin Sabet, president of SAM, in response to news of the nomination.
Advocates are optimistic that Gupta will at least maintain the status quo. Given the president’s opposition to legalization, skepticism remains regarding cannabis policy. The head of the ONDCP, informally referred to as “drug czar,” is explicitly required under statute to oppose efforts to legalize currently controlled substances.