09/16/18 Drug Czar, James W. Carroll Jr.

Century of Lies
Drug Czar, James W. Carroll Jr.
Drug Czar

The new Drug Czar, James W. Carroll Jr., has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to be confirmed soon by the full Senate. This week on Century of Lies we hear portions of his confirmation hearing, and we hear the Czar Carroll's take on the newly released National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Audio file



SEPTEMBER 16, 2018

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

On Thursday, September 13, the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve the nomination of James W. Carroll, Junior, as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, our new "Drug Czar." That nomination now goes to the floor of the Senate, where it is likely to be approved by the majority GOP Senate.

This nomination kind of slid under the radar. Not a lot of people were aware that he had a confirmation hearing recently. So today, we're going to learn more about James W. Carroll, Junior, in his own words.

First up, let's have his opening statement from the Senate confirmation hearing.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: President T***** has made addressing drug demand and the opioid crisis a top priority of his administration. In March, I was with the president in New Hampshire when he announced the opioid initiative, which is designed to address the driving forces of this crisis.

Through ONDCP, we intend to reduce demand through education and preventing over-prescribing. We need to ensure that those struggling with addiction can access the evidence-based treatment and recovery supports that they need. We need to cut off the supply of illicit drugs and bring drug traffickers to justice. I am very passionate about turning the tide on this crisis, and I bring both professional experience as well as personal compassion to this job.

Professionally, I began my job as a prosecutor, taking drug dealers off the streets, and then had experience at the state and federal level as well, and finally, in management at a Fortune Ten company, here as the Washington counsel in DC for Ford Motor Company. And this gives me a unique perspective in coordinating and leading and managing the country's response to drug threats.

But personally, like so many families, I too have a family member that has suffered from addiction. I spent time with this family member while they were first in a detox facility, and then in treatment, and this really personalized the drug epidemic for me.

Seeing someone I love struggle with addiction inspired me to do everything I can to make sure more families don't have to watch their loved ones engage in this fight.

Since joining ONDCP in February, I've been focused on addressing the problem with a whole of government approach. For prevention, we've recently launched a national public education campaign to close the knowledge gap on the dangers of opioids.

ONDCP funds 719 drug free community coalitions working across the country in all fifty states, where we have fifty -- and we just recently released, thanks to members of Congress and this committee, 55 additional grants, just three weeks ago, totaling almost three million dollars going into coalitions across the country.

For treatment and recovery, I've traveled to treatment centers around the country to see the strain the opioid crisis and other drugs are causing on our families and communities. The administration has sent nearly one billion dollars to the states for targeting their response, and I really want to thank Congress for their incredible commitment to this issue, including meeting the president's request to provide six billion dollars in funding over the next two years.

On the law enforcement side, I've created the first new High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area since 2001, to address the unique drug trafficking challenges facing Alaska. We now have a HIDTA presence in all fifty states.

We've worked hard with Congress and found efficiencies in ONDCP for another forty million dollars to go to the HIDTAs in your states, all across the country, to help fund the HIDTAs. So we'll be announcing that in the next few weeks.

Additionally, I recently visited the southwest border to see the challenges we face with drug smuggling, and I recently, we oversaw the release of a fentanyl safety video for first responders so they know how to properly prepare when they encounter this dangerous drug.

I am here today because the president has charged me with making sure drug overdose go down, access to treatment goes up, and drug traffickers are brought to justice. I believe in a strong ONDCP that uses every ounce of authority that you give it to effectively coordinate drug control policy, including fully funding our HIDTAs and our DFCs.

Working together we can save lives, we can strengthen our communities, and we can safeguard our country. If I have the honor of being confirmed, I vow to be relentless in my work to prevent more Archies, Emmets, and Catherines from becoming victims. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was James W. Carroll, Junior, with his opening statement at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Committee is the completely wrong place for the Office of National Drug Control Policy confirmation hearings. They should be looked at by either a healthcare related committee, or something that looked at government operations as a whole. After all, the purpose of ONDCP is to pull in all government agencies for work on drug control policies.

Unfortunately, the reality is that we consider drug control policy to be merely law enforcement, which is why we give such short shrift to treatment and to prevention, and so it's in the hands of the Judiciary Committee.

Let's go to some of the questions, and Carroll's answers, from the Committee hearing. Unfortunately, they jammed James Carroll's hearing in with three other people who were all federal judge nominees. The Senate Judiciary Committee, as you could imagine, was a lot more concerned about how these judges, who will be, if they're confirmed, given lifetime appointments, they were more concerned about how these judges were going to interpret various laws, and various rulings from the Supreme Court.

There's also the Kavanaugh nomination, which is creating a lot of consternation and taking up a great deal of time within the Senate Judiciary Committee. But anyway, I digress. Let's get into James Carroll's nomination. The first voice is Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Do you know where Kermit, West Virginia, is?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: I know of Kermit, West Virginia, yes sir, and I know of the opioid crisis that they face there, and over-prescription being an issue.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: It's a town of about 400 people, is that right?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: Yes sir, that's what I've read.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: And over a two year period, there were nine million prescription pain relievers prescribed.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Thirty one pills a day for every man, woman, and child. I've seen data that shows, on an annualized basis, there were fourteen billion prescription pain pills prescribed in America [sic: the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science reports that approximately 13.1 billion prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2017]. We've only got 323 million people. That's about 41 a day for everybody.

Now, the DEA was implicit [sic: complicit] in this, was it not?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: Obviously, you know, I was not serving in this capacity at that time.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I didn't ask you that.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I want to get out of la-la land here. Now, we've got a problem.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: Absolutely.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: And the problem is that prescription pain medication is being overproduced and overprescribed and overdispensed, and somebody is making a hell of a lot of money off of it.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: I couldn't agree more with everything you just said.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Now here's my question.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: What are you going to do about it? Who are you going to fire?


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Who's the president going to fire?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: The, as you know, Senator, from talk -- you're very involved in this issue, I sincerely appreciate that. One of the things that we need to do is hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for --

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: How are you going to do that?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: Thankfully, we do have a strong Department of Justice, I would defer to them the legal action that we're already --

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: You're going to be the Drug Czar. I want to know what you're going to do about it.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: Yes sir. We, what we need to do, in terms of being in the Drug Czar, is take the action and coordinate it across the federal government to make certain that pharmaceutical companies are held accountable, just --

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: So we're going to have coordinated action.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: Just like we --

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: And we're going to hold people accountable. How are you going to do that?

Look, I don't mean to pick on you.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: You're not picking on me.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: But I've had enough. Now I've sat here for seventeen months and listened to testimony. A big part of the problem is the federal government. It's some people aren't doing their jobs. And your job is to make sure they do their jobs. I would suggest to you that if they don't do their jobs, just a thought, you fire somebody. It's amazing --


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: -- what a motivating factor it will be for everybody else.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: What's also, I found --

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: But I want to know, in concrete terms, what the federal government is going to do to stop certain prescription drug companies from overproducing? And hooking our people.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: Thank you, Senator. What I need to do, if confirmed by the US Senate as the Director of ONDCP, is to hold accountable the pharmaceutical executives who downplay --

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: How are you going to do that?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: -- the risk. What we need to do is have a coordinated effort with DEA. We need --

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Why don't you call a press conference and name these names?


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: And say, here's what we've found. These companies are, they sold nine million pills to people over a two year period in a town of 400 people, and here's who did it.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: One thing that we need to do, and with the help of the Senate, is increase the PDMPs, the monitoring systems that allow insight into how many medications are actually being disbursed into a county, into our pharmacy. We need to strip the privacy information away from the individuals. We don't -- in some situations, privacy laws dictate that we don't have access to the names of the patients that are receiving this. Okeh? But we need an insight --

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I'm going to stop you, Mister Carroll, because I'm going to run out of time. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to write me a letter. Not from la-la land in Washington, but from the real world, and I need you to say, here specifically is what I'm going to do to rein in this overproduction. And please don't use words like accountability, and -- I mean, I want to, I want to know specifically. I'm just tired of the platitudes.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR: I'm happy to submit that to -- for you, sir.


DOUG MCVAY: That was Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana, questioning James W. Carroll, Junior, who is about to become our next Drug Czar.

Now, let's hear from Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat from Illinois. He's followed by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and then Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut.

RICHARD DURBIN: Mister Chairman, let me just add one thing. I think we need a hearing with Mister Carroll. I really believe the point made by Senator Kennedy is one we all share. Not to take anything away from the nominees and their important work that they will do for our country. Mister Carroll's involvement in this national opioid drug crisis merits much more than the few minutes that we're being given.

SENATOR MICHAEL CRAPO: Duly noted. Senator Cruz?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Thank you, Mister Chairman. Welcome, everyone. Congratulations on your nominations. Thank you for being here today.

Mister Carroll, we have, as a country, been having an ongoing discussion about the opioid crisis, and how to combat it. In your judgment, what are the most important steps we need to take to turn around this epidemic?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR.: There are three things that we need to do. We need to work on controlling the supply of drugs that are coming into our country. We are seeing record production, record cultivation, of the biologic products, the plants, the heroin, poppy fields coming from that, the cocaine, the coca fields that are producing that. They are in record numbers now, coming into the United States, and we need to work on interdicting those drugs.

We need to start at the source countries and start tracking them all the way here so we can block them coming into our country. What we need to do is work on the prevention aspects of this as well, through the education of prescribers, making sure that they understand the dangers of opioids, and that they're conveying that to the patients themselves.

What we also need is an awareness campaign. We did release about a month ago four new public service announcements targeting the youth, who are the most at risk from the opioid abuse problem that's facing our country that you just mentioned. And so an education campaign based on them, and letting them know the risk associated with it.

And then finally we need to embrace recovery and treatment for those individuals that are already impacted by this, and making sure that they can access help and get the long term support that they need.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: In your judgment, what is the role of border security in terms of dealing with this crisis?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR.: In terms of, you know, border security generally, the issue is making sure that illicit narcotics are not coming through our country, and they're coming in multiple ways.

The border security we're seeing for fentanyl, which is killing so many people today, is primarily coming from China, and crossing our borders through the US Postal Inspection Services. I appreciate the legislation that Congress has enacted to aid them in their efforts there to stop fentanyl.

What we also need to do is to work on the border security, both on the land border, coming up from Mexico, including coming down from Canada as well, we can't ignore the northern border. And then finally at sea, through the Department of Defense and really the Coast Guard, we're very active in interdicting at sea. And so, we have a great support system, you know, across the way.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: As you and I have discussed before, I've spent time meeting with a number of local law enforcement officials in Texas, and there's a long history of close cooperation and collaboration between state and local law enforcement officials and federal agencies, all combating illegal drugs.

Can you share your view of the level of cooperation and collaboration that is appropriate, that we should be working towards, and what you see as the role of ONDCP in terms of furthering that cooperation and collaboration?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR.: I'm very proud of the work that ONDCP does at the coordination level, both between local, state, tribal, and federal partners. Our High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas is really designed to do that, and I appreciate Congress's support and your support, Senator, particularly, for understanding the value of those.

In 2018, we spent $280 million across the country with no 30 HIDTAs, including the most recent one that I released about six weeks ago. What we do at ONDCP is we hold each one of those accountable every year.

They come in, share with us their metrics in terms of exactly how they're performing and what they're doing, and so what that represents is twenty-two thousand officers, at the tribal, local, state, and federal level, involved, five hundred different agencies, with the results of three thousand drug trafficking organizations dismantled, $16 billion in drugs removed, and ninety thousand arrests.

It should be 90,000 arrests plus the deconfliction of incidents to make sure there's not a blue on blue situation.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, thank you for that, I agree that the HIDTAs in particular have been quite effective, and an excellent example of the cooperation we should be seeing across law enforcement.

My last question, so when you and I visited in my office, I discovered a glaring and even shocking lack of qualification in one regard, which is that you had never seen the show Narcos. Have you corrected that yet?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR.: Yes, I have started watching Narcos, and I think we talked about The Trade, and you were going to start watching that one, so --

SENATOR TED CRUZ: So, I said tongue in cheek I couldn't vote to confirm you without your having seen that, so I'm glad that you have corrected that failing. Good luck to you, and thank you for taking on this very important job.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR.: Thank you, Senator.

SENATOR MICHAEL CRAPO: Thank you. Senator Blumenthal?

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Mister Chairman. I was going to vote for you, Mister Carroll, but that blatant pandering to Senator Cruz really deeply troubles me.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR.: I watch too much TV I guess, I'm sorry, sir.

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: But, I would agree with our colleague, Senator Durbin, that your nomination really deserves a separate hearing, not because there are any controversial issues in your background, or your qualifications, but because the topic of your service will be so important, so I hope you will come back to the Committee and that perhaps, Mister Chairman, you can advise our Chairman that we really should hear from you separately.

DOUG MCVAY: You're listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

We're listening to some of the confirmation hearing, and some comments from James W. Carroll, Junior, the next Drug Czar. His nomination was approved by the US Senate's Judiciary Committee on an 18 to 3 vote on September 13. His nomination now goes to the Senate floor, where it's expected he will breeze through.

We just heard Senators John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana; Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois; Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas; and Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, speaking to or asking questions of James Carroll. Now, let's listen to this exchange between Senator Christopher Coons, Democrat of Delaware, and James Carroll.

SENATOR CHRISTOPHER COONS: Mister Chairman, we have a vote underway in less than five minutes, for us to vote, and we have to get from here to there, so I'll try and be concise. I have a wide range of questions I had hoped to ask all of you but I've run out of time to do that.

Mister Carroll, briefly, I'll just reinforce what's been said by others that the role of ONDCP's incredibly important. Doctor Botticelli was kind enough to come and visit the state of Delaware when I was responsible for a county police department.

We worked very hard to get a HIDTA for Delaware that's now happened in recent years, and it's had very positive impact on our work against drug problems in our home community. In fact, our US Attorney has recently praised the assistance of Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA, and I'd be grateful for the chance to meet with you. I apologize, my schedule didn't allow it before this hearing, and if possible to welcome you to Delaware for a further conversation.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JUNIOR: I would like that.

SENATOR CHRISTOPHER COONS: Your previous experience is quite different from some of your predecessors in ONDCP, and I'd like the opportunity personally to work through the strategy, you've demonstrated in response to questioning familiarity with the relevant issues, but let me just you to, if I could quickly.

It's striking to me that the president's budget proposal would have relocated HIDTA, a highly effective program, under ONDCP for many years, to DEA. Do you believe the HIDTA program should be moved out of ONDCP, do you think that would improve its effectiveness?

JAMES W. CARROLL, JUNIOR: The -- what I can tell you, and I think will answer the question directly, hopefully, is that ONDCP did not have a nominee at the time the budget was discussed.

Had I been there, I would have pounded the table to keep HIDTAs at ONDCP.


JAMES W. CARROLL, JUNIOR: Since going, taking this position, I've met with OMB. They have heard the concerns raised by Congress, the American people, and many others, including the HIDTAs directly, about the importance of keeping them at ONDCP.


JAMES W. CARROLL, JUNIOR: And they're going to, the official comment from ONDCP was that they will re-evaluate this in 2020. So, this is, I don't think, a priority at all for OMB at this point.

SENATOR CHRISTOPHER COONS: Glad to hear it. I'll submit a question for the record about a GAO study on synthetic opioids and how we can improve performance metrics. I look forward to meeting with you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Senator Christopher Coons, questioning James W. Carroll, Junior, at Carroll's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Coons, Blumenthal, Durbin, and Senator Kennedy all expressed concern that not enough time was being given to Carroll's nomination, having been jammed onto a panel alongside three federal judge nominees.

They did not take time to question Carroll about his ideas, about his plans, about his philosophy. They had very little time. We are getting basically everything that they had to say.

The nomination was put to a roll call vote, finally, on September 13. Here's that vote.

SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY: The clerk will call the roll on James Carroll for National Drug Control Policy.

CLERK: Mister Hatch.


CLERK: Mister Graham.


CLERK: Mister Cornyn.


CLERK: Mister Lee.


CLERK: Mister Cruz.


CLERK: Mister Sasse.


CLERK: Mister Flake.


CLERK: Mister Crapo.


CLERK: Mister Tillis


CLERK: Mister Kennedy.


CLERK: Mrs. Feinstein.


CLERK: Mister Leahy.


CLERK: Mister Durbin.


CLERK: Mister Whitehouse.


CLERK: Miss Klobuchar.


CLERK: Mister Coons.


CLERK: Mister Blumenthal.


CLERK: Miss Hirono.


CLERK: Mister Booker.


CLERK: Miss Harris.


CLERK: Mister Chairman.


CLERK: Mister Chairman, the votes are 18 yea, 3 nea.

SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY: By the vote of 18 positive votes, James Carroll is reported to the floor.

DOUG MCVAY: So as you've just heard, the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 13 voted eighteen to three to approve the nomination of James W. Carroll, Junior, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff, to the position of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy: the Drug Czar.

Those three no votes came from Senator Cory [sic: Booker], Democrat of New Jersey; Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, and Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii. Three principled members of the US Senate. Unfortunately, James W. Carroll, Junior, an unqualified waste of space, will be confirmed as the Drug Czar.

On Friday, [sic: September] 14, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released the new National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That's an annual survey of drug use numbers, prevalence, trends, et cetera. James Carroll was one of the first voices on their recorded presentation, so let's hear what James Carroll had to say about NSDUH and drug policy. This is from a video released by SAMHSA on September 14, the day after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination.

JAMES W. CARROLL, JR.: Thank you, Secretary Azar, and thank you to HHS and SAMHSA for conducting this important research, which provides a snapshot of Americans' drug use.

This research shows us that more Americans are using drugs than they did two years ago. Last year, we lost more than 72,000 people to drug overdose. Heroin and cocaine are being laced with other substances like fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. And fentanyl is being pressed into counterfeit prescription pills, which can be mistaken for legitimate medications.

This new data shows that opioid abuse is remaining constant, while use of marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine are all up. So we aren't just in an opioid crisis, it's an addiction crisis.

I just returned from Colombia, where I met with President Duque, the new president of Colombia, about the skyrocketing coca cultivation and cocaine production which is flooding our streets.

The new data we're discussing today is consistent with an increasing cocaine availability, and it's troubling. What's more troubling is that this rise in cocaine use is killing more Americans. The good news is that we have a real opportunity to make a difference here, as I am encouraged by President Duque's commitment to fight cocaine production.

The same is true for Mexico. We've been working with the Mexican government to reduce the flow of illicit drugs across the southwest border, and the Mexicans have elected a new president, and we'll work with him to address his country's drug problem.

So by working with the new government to cut the flow of drugs headed for the US, we will save lives. But we also have to change hearts and minds. That's why as part of the president's opioids initiative, the White House launched an awareness campaign this summer.

I meet a lot of parents who have lost children to drug misuse, and too many of them tell me the same thing: I didn't know. The victims of addiction didn't know what they were up against. Every American needs to know the truth about opioids so we can spread the truth.

The ads are available online at, and new ads will be released in the coming months. This is just one part of the administration's tireless work to address drug abuse and this serious crisis.

Preventing drug use in the first place will help us stop more people from going down this road. Two weeks ago, the president announced record funding for the Drug Free Community Support Program. This program brings together all sectors of the community to prevent youth drug use across all fifty states, and this program helps turn these drug use trends around. Because of their work, 98 percent of middle school students, 95 percent of high school students, in drug free communities, report they have not misused prescription drugs in the past 30 days.

The efforts by the federal government, local coalitions, and communities, are starting to be reflected in the data. Young adults aged 18 to 25 are using fewer opioids than they were two years ago, so the message is beginning to get through to them.

But as this data shows, there's still a lot more to do, and the president, ONDCP, HHS, and communities all across the country, are working hard to save lives, strengthen our communities, and safeguard our country.

DOUG MCVAY: That was James Carroll. He is about to become the new Drug Czar.

And that's it for this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of

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And speaking of knowledge, January 22 through 27 in 2019, the National Institute on Drug Abuse holds its annual propaganda exercise aimed at young people. That's their National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week.

Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back in a week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.