Meet the New Drug Czar, Not the Same as the Old Drug Czar

The drug czar’s office has long functioned as a cheerleader for punitive drug policies. As someone who has been engaged in drug policy reform efforts most of my adult life, I can easily recall the forcefulness with which former drug czars like John Walters and Gen. Barry McCaffrey advocated in defense of zero tolerance policies without any regard to the scientific rationale for these policies or the destructive impact they have on individuals and communities.

However, under the Obama administration, the drug czar’s office has made a notable shift in rhetoric and tone. Last week, U.S. Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Michael Botticelli to become the next director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a position informally known as “drug czar.” Since joining ONDCP in 2012, Botticelli has served as ONDCP’s acting director and its deputy director.

Before joining ONDCP, Botticelli spent nearly two decades overseeing substance misuse programs at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. His background in public health gives hope to advocates that his leadership at ONDCP may be guided more by science and reason than his predecessors.

In the three years that he has played a leadership role in the drug czar’s office, Botticelli has demonstrated his commitment to advancing more science-based and compassionate drug policies. In public remarks, Botticelli has emphasized the need to expand treatment to people who need it, reduce stigma associated with drug use, and reduce collateral consequences following a conviction.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.