This important story illustrates key aspects of legislation today.
In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.
The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.
Deeply involved in the effort to help the industry was the DEA’s former associate chief counsel D. Linden Barber. Once a DEA lawyer who supervised cases against pharmaceutical companies, he left the agency and is now an executive at Cardinal Health. While at the DEA, he helped design and carry out the early stages of the agency’s tough enforcement campaign, which targeted drug companies that were failing to report suspicious orders of narcotics.
When Barber went to work for the drug industry in 2011, he brought an intimate knowledge of the DEA’s strategy and how it could be attacked to protect the companies. He was one of dozens of DEA officials recruited by the drug industry during the past decade.
Barber played a key role in crafting an early version of the legislation that would eventually curtail the DEA’s power, according to an internal email written by a Justice Department official to a colleague. “He wrote the Marino bill,” the official wrote in 2014.
Barber declined repeated requests for an interview.
With a few words, the new law changed four decades of DEA practice. Previously, the DEA could freeze drug shipments that posed an “imminent danger” to the community, giving the agency broad authority. Now, the DEA must demonstrate that a company’s actions represent “a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat,” a much higher bar.
Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2017