President Biden’s pick for director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy(ONDCP), worked for a major cannabis business in 2020, according to his financial disclosure reports. Rahul Gupta, the nominee for director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, was working as a consultant to Holistic Industries, a multi-state cannabis operator, for nine months last year. This is an addition to the originality of this specific administration pick, who had already caught the attention of reform advocates given his record overseeing the implementation of West Virginia’s medical marijuana program as state health commissioner and chair of a key advisory board. He’s also publicly acknowledged the therapeutic and economic potential of marijuana reform.
It’s unconventional, but someone who would be precisely tasked with maintaining the status quo of prohibition as the nation’s drug czar is generally welcomed with open arms by marijuana advocates nonetheless. However, Gupta has stirred frustrations with harm reduction activists, in his prior position as a state official he oversaw the decertification of a syringe access program.
Although Gupta’s views on adult-use cannabis are obscure as far as picking up a bubbler and lighting up, he was proactive in promoting patient access to medical cannabis.
During his time at Holistic, Gupta’s role was to consult on compliance issues reports CNN. Holistic WV Farms I, LLC– which is affiliated with Holistic Industries– ostensibly succeeded in demonstrating its compliance with state regulations in West Virginia, earning 10 medical cannabis retail permits, in addition to cultivation and processor permits. Concerning retail, there’s only one other company that has received as many permits as Holistic did under the consulting of Gupta and its state program.
It’s uncertain as to what role, if any, Gupta played in helping Holistic to secure those approvals. According to the disclosure documents, Gupta earned $10,000 for his services to the company. A White House spokesperson told CNN, “Dr. Gupta’s work for Holistic Industries involved consulting on regulatory compliance matters for prescribing medicinal cannabis in West Virginia where medical cannabis had already been legalized.” He continued, that, “He had overseen the development of such a program in the state as required by state law.”
In a disclosure document on his work for Holistic, Gupta says that, per federal statute, he agrees not to “participate personally and substantially in any particular manner involving specific parties in which I know that client is a party or represents a party, unless I am first authorized to participate” for one year after he last provided services. In this case, he worked for the medical marijuana company from March through December of 2020. It’s unclear what the probationary period would mean for the prospective drug czar’s efforts on marijuana policy issues if he is confirmed by the Senate. Unfortunately, in any case, the ONDCP director is explicitly required under statute to oppose efforts to legalize currently controlled substances, including cannabis.