Edward H. Jurith, the longtime lead lawyer for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), has been named the interim director of the agency by President Barack Obama.
Obama announced the appointment on Jan. 20 — Inauguration Day. Jurith replaces Patrick M. Ward, named interim ONDCP director just eight days earlier by former President George Bush. Ward is ONDCP's acting deputy director of supply reduction.
This is Jurith's second stint as acting “drug czar” — he was appointed acting ONDCP director by President Bill Clinton in the waning days of his administration, replacing Barry McCaffrey, and led the agency for nearly a year before President Bush named John Walters to lead ONDCP in December 2001.
Jurith has served as ONDCP's general counsel since 1994; prior to that he worked as staff director and counsel at the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, founded by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). During his time in Congress, Jurith helped draft the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988, which remain cornerstones of federal drug-control policy.
Jurith's responsibilities at ONDCP include providing legal advice on compliance with federal law and as related to the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign and other ONDCP programs.
Jurith also has served on the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Substance Abuse and, since July 2008, has served as an at-large member of the board of Faces and Voices of Recovery.
Pat Taylor, executive director of Faces and Voices, called Jurith a “dedicated public servant.”
“We have a lot of respect for him,” she said.
Jurith also has occasionally represented ONDCP in public forums, such as a December 2008 debate on medical marijuana with Dan Bernath, assistant communications director of the Marijuana Policies Project. “Jurith didn¹t lie, bully, or accuse me of secretly trying to get children hooked on marijuana,” wrote Bernath on his blog after the debate. “His arguments at least had some basis in legal fact, although I believe they were far too narrow to justify denying seriously ill patients access to safe, effective medicine, let alone arresting them for it. But he was civil and thoughtful.”