A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden this week, asking him to add the Office of National Drug Control Policy back to the cabinet amid record drug overdoses.
‘When meeting with our constituents, drug trafficking and the overdose epidemic are routinely among their top concerns,’ Rep. David Trone, D-Md., and 54 other lawmakers wrote in the letter to Biden.
‘Reinstatement of the ONDCP Director to the Cabinet would be a meaningful step in improving interagency collaboration and the effectiveness of drug control programs across the federal government.’
The United States recorded a record 106,699 drug overdose deaths in 2021, a 16% increase over 2020, according to the CDC.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 50 times stronger than heroin, has been driving the latest phase of the opioid epidemic. Drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl jumped 22% in 2021, while heroin overdoses decreased 32%.
The ONDCP Director was demoted from the cabinet level in 2009, but restoring it would ‘address the drug crisis with the full force of this Administration,’ lawmakers wrote in the letter to Biden this week.
More than 13,000 pounds of fentanyl and 172,000 pounds of methamphetamine were seized at the border between September 2021 and August 2022, according to Customs and Border Protection.
Lawmakers noted that then-Sen. Biden expressed support for keeping a drug czar at the cabinet level in 2001.
‘Having a Cabinet-level ONDCP would also help ensure that drug policy is considered and prioritized across all policy discussions, accountability for performance is standardized across agencies involved in drug control activities, and the Administration is prepared to zealously respond to trends in drug use and overdose,’ lawmakers wrote.