Reports out of Washington, DC, this afternoon have Jim Carroll, a current deputy to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, slotted to take over as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a role commonly referred to as the nation’s drug czar. CNN reported that Carroll was named late Friday as the deputy director of ONDCP, and will serve as the office’s acting director until he’s confirmed by the Senate.
“We have full confidence in Jim to lead ONDCP to make significant strides in combating the opioids crisis, reducing drug use, and coordinating US drug policy,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “Fighting the opioid crisis and drug addiction is a priority for this administration. We greatly appreciate Jim for his counsel and leadership during his tenure at the White House and look forward to the future contributions he will make in this new role.”
Carroll would be the Trump administration’s fourth, fifth, or sixth drug czar, depending on how you’re counting. When Michael Botticelli, President Obama’s drug czar, left office in January 2017, Kemp Chester briefly took over as acting director. He was followed by Rich Baum, who currently serves as acting ONDCP director. Baum has worked at ONDCP under four presidential administrations.
Tom Marino, a Congressman from Pennsylvania, was twice put forth as Trump’s nominee to succeed Botticelli, and twice withdrew from consideration. Last month, the Washington Post reported that a 24-year-old former Trump campaign worker, Taylor Weyeneth, was effectively overseeing policy at ONDCP as the White House’s liason to the office. Weyeneth stepped down from his position at the end of January after the Post revealed that his resume contained several substantial inaccuracies.
Who is Jim Carroll? Nobody seems to know much about him. We are certain that he’s not Jim Carroll, author of The Basketball Diaries, the classic 1978 memoir of drug addiction on the streets of New York City. That Jim Carroll died in 2009. The drug czar Jim Carroll is so unknown that no mainstream news outlet could find a photo of him. (CNN went with a file photo of Tom Marino, and so did we here at Leafly.)
The new drug czar nominee worked as general counsel at the Office of Management and Budget back in November 2017. Then he was hired as a deputy to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Kelly, of course, is already losing White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who resigned, or was fired (it’s still unclear) this week after media reports surfaced allegations that he physically abused his two ex-wives. It’s unclear why the chief of staff would move Carroll, who is apparently a trusted deputy, over to ONDCP, which is a relatively small and obscure office that the president once proposed cutting funding for.
It’s not known if Carroll has any experience with drug policy whatsoever. Prior to his work with the Trump administration, Carroll held several positions with the Ford Motor Company, including a stint as the auto giant’s Washington, DC, counsel.
One year ago, the Trump administration floated the idea of cutting the ONDCP budget by 95%, or eliminating the office altogether. The latest rumors have the White House moving ONDCP into the Department of Justice.