Rahul Gupta: Biden’s candidate for drug czar was consulted for a cannabis company last year, the ethics disclosure shows


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

A White House spokesman said the work of the future drug czar related to efforts to ensure compliance with medical marijuana.

“Dr. Gupta’s work for Holistic Industries included advising on regulatory compliance matters for prescribing medical cannabis in West Virginia, where medical cannabis was already legalized, he said.

While Gupta was serving as the West Virginia state health officer, the state passed law allowing residents to use marijuana for a certified medical use.

Gupta signed a federal ethics agreement stating that he will not be “personally and substantively involved in any particular matter” in which Holistic Industries is involved for one year after his last service.

His revelation also shows that he testified in court as an expert advisor to a law firm representing a nurse in Wyoming who was sentenced to one year probation and six months of house arrest last year for improperly acquiring a controlled substance. The nurse was first charged by the Justice Department in 2018 for the illicit distribution of controlled substances such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and alprazolam, as well as two cases of illicit distribution of controlled substances resulting in death. All but one charges – she pleaded guilty to “having acquired a controlled substance through deception, fraud or deception” – have been dismissed.

According to a court document, Gupta submitted a court testimony in the case that “should cover guidelines for pain management, guidelines and standards of care for general practitioners in treating pain sufferers.”

The White House confirmed that Gupta “provided medical liability advice to Haytham Faraj, a law firm focused on personal injury, including alleged medical negligence.”

CNN approached Holistic Industries and the law firm Gupta hired as experts in the Wyoming case for comment.

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

According to CDC data released last week, the number of deaths from drug overdose in the United States rose nearly 30% in 2020, the highest number ever recorded. Overall, life expectancy in the US fell more than a year in 2020 due to factors such as deaths from Covid-19 and an increase in deaths from accidental injuries, which include deaths from 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, a former West Virginia public health officer, and the chief medical and health officer of the March of Dimes have all been touted by the White House. He served on the Biden-Harris President’s transition team and has taught at a number of major medical and pharmaceutical schools.

According to his ethical disclosure, Gupta has also worked with states and municipalities as an advisor or expert on a number of states or municipalities taking legal action against drug companies over the opioid crisis. According to the disclosure, he is not allowed to participate in this activity even one year after the last service provision.

The public perception of marijuana is moving towards legalization. For example, three major polls released this year showed that a majority of Americans support marijuana legalization.

However, the Biden administration has hinted that the president has not changed its stance on the issue, despite the recent Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer tabled a bill 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” in the president’s views on marijuana.

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