Michael Botticelli Unanimously Approved As U.S. Drug Czar

By McCarton Ackerman 02/17/15

The president's nominee received unanimous confirmation after serving in an unofficial capacity for almost a year.

Michael Botticelli
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President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve as U.S. drug czar has officially landed the position after winning unanimous approval from the Senate last week.

Michael Botticelli received a 92-0 approval to take the position, which he has unofficially had since March. He previously served as deputy director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy before being given the title of acting director.

Botticelli has also been open about his own experience with alcohol abuse and being in recovery, having been clean and sober since a 1988 arrest for drunk driving that resulted in him being handcuffed to a hospital bed.

"There are millions of Americans—including myself—who are in successful long-term recovery," said Botticelli in a statement. "Our stories can fundamentally change the way our nation views people with a substance use disorder, which is a disease needing medical treatment like any other disease."

Botticelli vowed that he will advocate for a “science-based drug policy,” as well as drug treatment instead of arrests for non-violent offenders. He will also call for continued high levels of federal funding for prevention, treatment and recovery.

The federal funding allotted for this is currently the highest it has been in 12 years. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass) also praised Botticelli and said that his “personal life experiences have provided him a unique perspective on the epidemic facing our nation.”

It also appears that Botticelli could even move drug policy in a different direction than it has been historically. In response to Congress’ attempt to halt the measure approved by voters in Washington, D.C. to legalize marijuana, said that while he doesn’t agree with legalizing marijuana, he also don’t believe it’s Congress’ place to try and stop it.

“As a resident of the District, I might not agree about legalization, but I do agree with our own ability to spend our own money the way that we want to do that,” he said last week. “The president, as it relates to the District, I think was very clear that the District should stick to its home rule.”

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said that Botticelli’s statement was “a big step for someone who works in an office that has for decades gone out of its way to keep marijuana illegal everywhere and at any cost."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.