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The New Acting US Drug Czar Is 24 Years Sober


Does Michael Botticelli's track-record of expanding treatment services herald wider improvements in US policy?

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The new acting White House “drug czar” (director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy) is Michael Botticelli. He replaces Gil Kerlikowske—who is now the Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, and whose record of leading the ONDCP during five years of rapid change is being hotly debated.

Botticelli has an impressive track-record of expanding addiction treatment services during his time at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and has been a recipient of the Ramstad/Kennedy National Award for Outstanding Leadership in Promoting Addiction Recovery. He also personally has 24 years sober.

As Lucia Graves notes in this article about Kerlikowske’s legacy, “It’s unclear whether [Botticelli will] be formally nominated by the Obama administration, and even more unclear that he could clear a Senate vote. But if he is chosen, it would mark the first time in history someone with a background in promoting addiction recovery became the nation’s top drug official—since he’s in charge now, it already does.”

It’s certainly good to see someone in this position, however temporarily, whose clear priority appears to be treatment, rather than arrests. But drug-legalization advocates might not be too excited, given Botticelli’s recent extreme reluctance to acknowledge that marijuana is any less dangerous than alcohol.