A familiar Florida name is floating to the top of a list to become the next drug czar after President Donald Trump’s top pick for the job pulled his name from consideration for the position.
On Tuesday, Trump announced his nominee for the position, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., took his name out of the running to become the head of the National Office of Drug Control Policy after a Washington Post/60 Minutes report which contended he was pivotal in sponsoring a bill critics said undermined the country’s fight against the opioid epidemic.
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s name is once again floating around as a possible replacement for Marino, primarily in part due to her close relationship with Trump and her work on the White House’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission.
Bondi works with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the commission, which was formed to search for solutions to opioid abuse nationwide.
President Trump has called the opioid emergency a “serious problem the likes of which we have never had,” and said Monday he intends to declare the problem a national emergency next week.
"The opioid crisis is an emergency,” said Trump in August. “And I am saying officially right now: It is an emergency, it's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”
Bondi has experience in fighting drug problems in Florida.
The two-term Attorney General has touted the pill mill crackdown as one of the highlights of her seven year-term in the position.
The heroin epidemic is especially problematic in South Florida, where numbers of overdoses have skyrocketed, rising to levels comparable to the prescription pill abuse epidemic of 2010.
Some studies show that since Bondi’s pill mill crackdowns, Florida heroin deaths have increased significantly, jumping as high as 1250 percent.
Despite her experience, Bondi said she wasn’t totally sure about taking the drug czar job just yet.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m in D.C. a lot. I can tell you the DEA is doing great, all the executive offices are doing great...everybody works well together. Whether that exact position is needed? I don’t know.”
Bondi is headed to Washington later this week for a meeting for Trump’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission -- and said the administration wasn’t planning on taking the country’s opioid problem lightly.
“This fentanyl and heroin crisis is more than you can even comprehend now,” Bondi said. “We’ve got to help our addicts, but on the same hand, we’re not doing them a service if we’re not locking up the dealers. They’re murderers, in my opinion.”