Obama’s DEA Nominee Pledges To Ignore Administration’s Medical Marijuana Policy

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 18, 2010

    It was a little over a year ago when the United States Department of Justice announced that it would back away from pursuing cases against medical marijuana patients and providers who are acting in accordance with state and local laws.

    “As a general matter, pursuit of [federal law enforcement] priorities should not focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” The DOJ announced on October 19, 2009. “For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.”

    Apparently Michelle Leonhart, President Obama’s nominee to direct the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, didn’t get the memo.

    Speaking yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on day one of her Senate confirmation process, Leonhart pledged to ignore the administration’s formal medical marijuana guidelines.

    Michele Leonhart one step closer to officially heading up the DEA
    via The Daily Caller

    [excerpt] Acting director Michele Leonhart is that much closer to officially heading up the Drug Enforcement Agency after successfully navigating a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

    If confirmed to the position she’s already held for three years, Leonhart said she would expand the DEA’s anti-cartel operations in Mexico and continue to enforce federal drug laws in states where medical marijuana is legal.

    … Perhaps due to the failure of Prop 19 in California (and despite the passage of medical marijuana in Arizona), Kohl, along with Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Al Franken of Minnesota, made no mention of medical marijuana. Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, however, made it his prime focus.

    “I’m a big fan of the DEA,” said Sessions, before asking Leonhart point blank if she would fight medical marijuana legalization.

    “I have seen what marijuana use has done to young people, I have seen the abuse, I have seen what it’s done to families. It’s bad,” Leonhart said. “If confirmed as administrator, we would continue to enforce the federal drug laws.”

    “These legalization efforts sound good to people,” Sessions quipped. “They say, ‘We could just end the problem of drugs if we could just make it legal.’ But any country that’s tried that, Alaska and other places have tried it, have failed. It does not work,” Sessions said.

    “We need people who are willing to say that. Are you willing to say that?” Sessions asked Leonhart.

    “Yes, I’ve said that, senator. You’re absolutely correct [about] the social costs from drug abuse, especially from marijuana,” Leonhart said. “Legalizers say it will help the Mexican cartel situation; it won’t. It will allow states to balance budgets; it won’t. No one is looking [at] the social costs of legalizing drugs.”

    It is shocking to learn that not a single Senator who attended the hearing, in particular Democrat Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, had the courage to demand that Ms. Leonhart respect the laws of the 15 states that have legalized the use of marijuana as a medicine. In the case of Sen. Whitehouse, his own state is now in the process of licensing state-certified marijuana providers and distributors; yet he appears to have no problem with the idea of appointing a federal official who declares her intention to put his own constituents in federal prison.

    It gets even more disturbing. In the days leading up to Wednesday’s initial confirmation hearing, a coalition of advocacy groups — including NORML, Americans for Safe Access, and others called on members of the Senate Judiciary to ask Ms. Leonhart tough questions regarding her public record, one that is incompatible with state laws, public opinion, and with the policies of this administration. Yet not a single Senator did so.

    There is a growing divide between state and federal law concerning the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and it would only take members of the Senate — or Ms. Leonhart for that matter — a cursory scan of today’s google headlines to see it:

    Prop 203 Passes: Medical Marijuana to Be Legal in Arizona
    via CBS News

    New Mexico approves six new medical marijuana producers
    via The New Mexico Independent

    Maine couple cleared to open marijuana clinic
    via The Associated Press

    DC revises medical marijuana regulations
    via Comcast

    As we’ve written before, as Interim DEA director, Ms. Leonhart has overseen dozens of federal raids on medical marijuana providers, producers, and laboratory facilities that engage in the testing of cannabis potency and quality. Yesterday Ms. Leonhart pledged to continue these actions — actions that violate this administration’s own written policies, and more importantly, actions that target the civilians of fifteen states and the District of Columbia. These people are the constituents of 30 percent of the U.S. Senate; yet not even one of these elected officials appears willing to speak up for them. That is disgraceful.

    Want to write or call your Senator about Ms. Leonhart’s nomination process? You can still do so here and here.

    164 responses to “Obama’s DEA Nominee Pledges To Ignore Administration’s Medical Marijuana Policy”

    1. Imin Payne says:

      Karma coming back to bitch slap the Medical Pot bunch in Cali who voted against prop. 219 just to enrich themselves at the expense of doing the right thing for everyone. The Feds have now claimed a victory and will begin going after State grows for MM clinics…and then the clinics themselves. Short sighted idiots in Humbolt and the triangle area have set pot law reform back two decades.

    2. Totally sickening. Let’s make a commerical of dead mexicans thanking leonhart for ending there lives. And questioning how its being spun as a sucess.

    3. Mrs. Rat'sRectum says:

      No one who matters gives a shit what Michelle Leonhart thinks. Like all the patients and people who prefer to relax with cannabis instead of alcohol are just going to stop or go away.

      Give her the orders to use the proposals to transition from prohibition to legal cannabis I wrote about before.

      Namely, hold regional conferences in the West, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and South where people give papers on how to legalize at the state level in states in that area, as well as how to make the transition from prohibition to legal cannabis at the federal level. Professors, private sector intellectuals, and concerned interest group representatives should all present. Give grants to the professors.

      I mean, really, anyone is government, you know, politicians or the bureaucracy, is too damn lazy, too stupid, has their hands tied, or like most people is afraid to say diddly-squat on legalization. And then there are people like Leonhard whose salary and climb to the top rest on keeping things the way they are, prohibited.

      Make Michelle adapt the winning proposals to regulations, a study on her part, and then Congress can just rubber stamp it. Or Congress rubber stamps a proposal, and Michelle does it anyway, adapts it to regulations.

      Funny thing though, concentrating people into ghettos where unemployment is rampant, termed undesirable people, then using supply-side economics by introducing all kinds of drugs into the equation. I mean, it’s the cat’s paw analogy, to have a goodly number of them kill themselves by dealing to their own and having them move on to highly addictive substances such as heroin or even crack, you know, by not separating the soft drug, cannabis, from hard drugs.

      Cat’s paw is a phrase derived from La Fontaine’s fable, “The Monkey and the Cat”, referring to one used unwittingly by another to accomplish his own purposes.


      It’s Malthusian, even closet-fascist.

      You know, Thomas Malthus’s way of controlling overpopulation is one thing.


      But when there is essentially no overpopulation, as we have here in the States, you know, compared to other civilizations, you know, Western Europe has a higher population density, and the circumstances are that mostly one or two ethnic groups considered undesirable are concentrated into poor areas, it looks so insidious, like subtle fascism, especially when this aspect is pointed out to people, exposed, and yet it continues.

      I have to give thanks to George Soros & Mr. Lewis and all the other wealthy wise supporters.
      I want the U.S. to become a more open society, a more compassionate society.
      Thank you, Mr. Soros. Thank you, Mr. Lewis.
      Thank you, all you legalization supporters.

    4. Spxder says:

      Marijuana is a much safer choice then alcohol and tobacco according to science, plus it’s a very beneficial medicine for many ailments. Stupid, ignorant people like her are the reason so many lives are ruined and that’s why there’s violence in the first place. Someone needs to stop her or things are going to get worse.

    5. Josh H says:

      so we have nearly 1/3rd of the states who have ratified a form of Medicinal Marijuana in the 14 yrs since Californians passed prop 215, and there a a handful of patients who receive FEDERAL MEDICINAL MARIJUANA, yet the head of the DEA still turns a blind eye to the MEDICINAL values of cannabis? When is the DEA going to start looking at the facts and realize that the RECREATIONAL USE argument and the MEDICINAL USE argument are two separate entities. WAKE UP LEONHART, AND SMELL THE CANNABIS FLOWERS!!!!

    6. J.azucar says:

      im tired of american anti-drug politician bullshit… i cant stand to hear it

    7. Leonard Krivitsky, MD says:

      The President made certain unequivocal election Campaign promises about Medicinal Cannabis. I hope Leonhart keeps this in mind, or a serious question arises about whether we can believe anything at all these people tell us during their election campaigns.

    8. Don says:

      I wonder who Obama really is. He’s clearly not the person we all thought we were electing. How else could anyone possibly explain his choice of Leonhart? I really had a lot of hope for him but now, I think he needs to go. I’d vote for Sarah Palin over him in a heartbeat right now if the election were to be held right now!

    9. Rich says:

      Wow! To think I voted for people who I thought had back bones!! This is ridiculous! I pray for our future….

    10. Brandon C says:

      NORML is all over the dea.gov website. This will get nasty before it gets better! We have to stay strong though, because the government is going to keep trying to make NORML and the “marijuana reform groups” look like evil villains. These are peoples jobs we’re messing with, so of course they’re fighting emotionally. I’m sorry, but I must say no significant human rights movement has ever came about because of a peaceful reform. This is a fight for human rights! Let them keep making these ignorant decisions. It will only benefit us in the long run. I will no longer sit down and raise my hand; I will Stand Up for my rights. This is America, and we have a democratic choice to fight for what we believe in.

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