Drug czar

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Drug czar is an informal name for the person who directs drug-control policies in various areas. The term follows the informal use of the term czar in U.S. politics. The 'drug czar' title first appeared in a 1982 news story by United Press International that reported that, "[United States] Senators ... voted 62–34 to establish a 'drug czar' who would have overall responsibility for U.S. drug policy."[1] Since then, several ad hoc executive positions established in both the United States and United Kingdom have subsequently been referred to in this manner.


The Drug Commissioner of the German Federal Government has been called the nation's drug czar by the state media company Deutsche Welle.[2]

United States[edit]

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske speaks with staff and patients at the Covenant House, which helps drug-addicted teenagers and adults.

The first US Drug czar was Harry J. Anslinger who served as the first Commissioner of the Treasury Board-created Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930-1962, under the administrations of five presidents: Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy. Legislative efforts for marijuana prohibition under Anslinger included a push for all states to adopt similar drug laws, the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act and the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which in effect criminalized the drug and set the stage for marijuana prohibition.

Nixon and Ford administrations[edit]

Carter administration[edit]

followed by Lee I Dogoloff 

Reagan administration[edit]

  • Carlton Turner PhD, ScD, Director of the Drug Abuse Policy Office. Turner, while working as drug czar, was in communication with Elisaldo Carlini, a scientist in Brazil whose lab was studying the beneficial effects of CBD. Turner helped establish the Marijuana Research Project at the University of Mississippi.[3]
  • D. Ian McDonald, MD. Deputy Assistant to the President, Drug Abuse Policy Office
  • Vice President George H.W. Bush, who created and oversaw the Vice President's National Narcotics Border Interdiction System


Trump administration[edit]

State and local authorities[edit]

In California, the head of the state Bureau of Medical Cannabis has been called "marijuana czar".[5]

Following statewide medical and recreational legalization, the city of Sacramento, California appointed a director of cannabis policy and enforcement, called a pot czar.[6]

In Washington State, the consultant to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board determining statewide procedures and regulations following legalization was "quickly dubbed 'pot czar'".[7] A similar cannabis regulation staff position in Oregon Liquor Control Commission was also called "marijuana czar".[8]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK, Keith Hellawell, former Drugs Advisor to the Labour government of Tony Blair, has been referred to as a drug czar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anthony H. Gamboa (4 January 2005). "Letter to Hon. John W. Olver & Hon. Henry A. Waxman, subject: Office of National Drug Control Policy" (PDF). csdp.org. U.S. Government Accountability Office. pp. 14–15. Retrieved 4 August 2014. We conclude that ONDCP’s prepackaged news stories violate the ban on covert propaganda, but its use of the term "drug czar" to refer to ONDCP’s Director does not violate the ban on self-aggrandizement.
  2. ^ German Youths Choose Alcohol Over Cannabis, Drug Czar Says, Deutsche Welle, May 5, 2008
  3. ^ Lewis, Amanda Chicago (23 May 2020). "A Hidden Origin Story of the CBD Craze". New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  4. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/03/29/chris-christie-to-lead-trump-white-house-drug-commission/
  5. ^ Patrick McGreevy (April 7, 2016), "Has she smoked weed? What will happen with recreational pot?: A conversation with California's first marijuana czar", The Los Angeles Times
  6. ^ Sacramento 'Pot Czar' preparing for legalization of recreational marijuana sales, KXTV ABC 10 TV News, October 31, 2017
  7. ^ Ben Livingston (April 10, 2013), "Don't Call Him the "Pot Czar": Mark Kleiman Is Advising the State on How to Run a Legal Pot Industry", The Stranger
  8. ^ Anna Staver (December 18, 2014), "Oregon's marijuana czar ready to look for answers", Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon

External links[edit]