NORML Opposes President Obama’s Pick To Head The Drug Enforcement Administration

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director July 21, 2010

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 21, 2010

    Following Recent Raids, Medical Marijuana Advocacy Groups Call on President Obama to Withdraw Nomination of Michele Leonhart to be DEA Administrator

    Obama’s DEA Head Must Follow Stated Medical Marijuana Policy, End Obstruction of Marijuana Research, and Base Marijuana Rescheduling on Science Rather than Ideology

    CONTACT: Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director, 202-483-5500 or director@norml.org

    WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a coalition of organizations supportive of medical marijuana patients and providers (see list of organizations below) are calling on President Obama to withdraw his nomination of Michele Leonhart to serve as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Ms. Leonhart, who is currently the DEA’s acting-administrator, has not demonstrated that she is capable of leading the agency in a thoughtful manner at a time when fourteen states have enacted medical marijuana laws and science is increasingly confirming the therapeutic benefits of the substance.

    “It is clearly time for President Obama to insist that his appointees adhere to current Justice Department guidelines regarding state laws regulating the medical use of marijuana, and that marijuana be fairly evaluated by all federal agencies, based on science, not ideology,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the nation’s oldest marijuana legalization lobby. “The Obama administration should be working with us to eliminate criminal penalties for the responsible use of marijuana by adults, regardless of whether it is medical use or otherwise.”

    Under Leonhart’s leadership, the DEA has staged medical marijuana raids in apparent disregard of Attorney General Eric Holder’s directive to respect state medical marijuana laws. Most recently, DEA agents flouted a pioneering Mendocino County (CA) ordinance to regulate medical marijuana cultivation by raiding the very first grower to register with the sheriff. Joy Greenfield, 69, had paid more than $1,000 for a permit to cultivate 99 plants in a collective garden that had been inspected and approved by the local sheriff.

    Informed that Ms. Greenfield had the support of the sheriff, the DEA agent in charge responded by saying, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.” The DEA’s conduct is inconsistent with an October 2009 Department of Justice memo directing officials not to arrest individuals “whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

    Ms. Leonhart has also demonstrated that she is unable to be objective in carrying out the duties of the administrator as it relates to medical marijuana research. In January 2009, she refused to issue a license to the University of Massachusetts to cultivate marijuana for FDA-approved research, despite a DEA administrative law judge’s ruling that it would be “in the public interest” to issue the license. This single act has blocked privately-funded medical marijuana research in this country. The next DEA administrator will likely influence the outcome of a marijuana rescheduling petition currently before the agency. It is critical that an administrator with an open mind toward science and research is at the helm.

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    The following organizations are calling on President Obama to withdraw the nomination of Ms. Leonhart if she does not end the attacks on individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws and commit to making decisions related to medical marijuana based on science, not a personal anti-marijuana bias:

    California NORML

    Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)

    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)

    Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)

    National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

    Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)

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