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Pam Bondi not convinced that U.S. needs a 'drug czar'

Attorney General Pam Bondi said Tuesday she’s not convinced that the United States needs a federal “drug czar” to help set national drug control policy.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee, Bondi said: “You know, I don‘t know. I’m in D.C. a lot and I can tell you, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is doing great ... We call it a drug czar but it’s basically the head of ONDCP, I believe.” The letters stand for Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Bondi spoke shortly after President Donald J. Trump’s nominee for drug czar, U.S. Rep. Thomas Marino of Pennsylvania, withdrew from consideration after news reports that linked him to legislation that weakened efforts to fight a national opioid epidemic.

Bondi, a former Tampa prosecutor, was mentioned as a possible drug czar appointee in the first few months of Trump’s term.

Former Florida Gov. and Tampa Mayor Bob Martinez was drug czar in the early 1990s, and offered Bondi some advice about the position soon after Trump won last November.

Bondi now is a presidential appointee to a bipartisan task force on the deepening opioid crisis and said she will return to Washington for another meeting Friday. Bondi referred to traffickers of fentanyl as “murderers,” but stopped short of saying Florida would file lawsuits against large drug companies.

“Are you kidding? Have I considered it. Of course,” Bondi said. “We‘re doing it the right way, though, right now. We didn’t just run out and hire (law) firms.”

Bondi said she’s working with former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, a panel member and a Democrat, who has dealt first-hand with substance abuse issues.