Rahul Gupta: Biden drug czar candidate consulted for cannabis company last year, ethics disclosure says

Gupta, who was officially appointed director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy earlier this month, advised Holistic Industries – a multi-state cannabis operator with processing facilities, dispensaries and products like edibles and Jerry Garcia-themed marijuana. line. The disclosure says he was paid $ 10,000 directly for his services.

A White House spokesperson said that the future drug czar’s job was with medical marijuana compliance efforts.

“Dr. Gupta’s work for Holistic Industries involved consulting on regulatory compliance issues for prescribing medicinal cannabis in West Virginia where medical cannabis had previously been legalized. He had overseen the development of such a program in the United States. State as required by state law, ”the spokesperson said. mentionned.

While Gupta served as the public health official for the state of West Virginia, the state enacted a law allowing residents to use marijuana for certified medical purposes.

Gupta has signed a federal ethics agreement stipulating that it will not participate “personally and substantially in any particular matter” involving Holistic Industries for one year after its last performance of services.

His disclosure also shows that he testified in court as an expert advisor to a law firm that represented a Wyoming nurse practitioner who was sentenced to one year of probation with six months of house arrest the year. last for improperly acquiring a controlled substance. The nurse practitioner was originally indicted by the Justice Department in 2018 for illegal distribution of controlled substances, including fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and alprazolam, as well as two counts of illegal distribution controlled substances causing death. All but one of the charges – she pleaded guilty to acquiring “a controlled substance through false declaration, deception or subterfuge” – were dismissed.

According to a court document, Gupta testified in court in the case which was to “cover pain management policies, guidelines and standard of care for primary care physicians when treating patients with pain.” .

The White House has confirmed that Gupta “has performed medical liability advisory work for Haytham Faraj, a law firm that focuses on personal injury, including alleged medical negligence.”

CNN has contacted Holistic Industries and the law firm that hired Gupta as an expert witness in the Wyoming case for comment.

Earlier this week, the director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Rochelle Walensky, said the country was facing a “collision” of overdose deaths and deaths from Covid-19.

Drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 30% in the United States in 2020, reaching their highest number on record, according to CDC data released last week. Overall, life expectancy in the United States in 2020 has fallen by more than a year due to factors such as deaths from Covid-19 and an increase in unintentional injury deaths, which include fatalities by drug overdose.

If confirmed, Gupta would be the first doctor to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. His work as a practicing physician, former West Virginia public health official and March of Dimes chief medical officer have all been touted by the White House. He was a member of the Biden-Harris presidential transition team and taught at several top medical and pharmacy schools.

According to its Ethics Disclosure, Gupta has also worked with states and localities as an advisor or expert witness in a number of cases of states or localities seeking legal action against pharmaceutical companies for the opioid crisis. . According to the disclosure, he is also not to participate in this work for a year after providing his services for the last time.

Public perception of marijuana is moving towards legalization. Three major polls released this year, for example, indicated that a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana.

But the Biden administration said the president had not changed his stance on the issue, despite the recent bill from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week in response to the bill that “nothing has changed” about the president’s views on marijuana.

Biden has previously said he supports the decriminalization of marijuana, but he didn’t go so far as to say he supports its legalization.

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