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Senate Judiciary

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 15, 2010

    On Friday we informed you that the United States Senate Judiciary would begin confirmation hearings this week on Michele Leonhart, the President’s nominee to direct the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The hearings are scheduled to begin this Wednesday, November 17.

    As I write today on the website of the Washington, DC politico newspaper The Hill, we must demand that the Senate ask Ms. Leonhart tough questions regarding her past record and her intentions moving forward.

    Obama’s pick to head DEA needs to answer some tough questions
    via The Hill

    [excerpt] Ms. Leonhart’s actions and ambitions are incompatible with state laws, public opinion, and with the policies of this administration. At a minimum, Senators should ask Ms. Leonhart specific questions regarding her past record and her intentions moving forward. These questions ought to include:

    * What are your plans for bridging the growing divide between state and federal law concerning the use of marijuana for medical purposes?

    * How has the DEA changed its policies and practices to ensure compliance with the 2009 Department of Justice memo calling on federal law enforcement to no longer target individuals who are in compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states?

    * When will the DEA respond to a 2002 petition to hold hearings on the rescheduling of marijuana, as were called for by the American Medical Association?

    Failure of the Senate to engage in a probing dialogue with Ms. Leonhart regarding these matters will continue to give the appearance that Congress and this administration are willing to place politics above science. This administration has specifically pledged to end this practice. It can begin doing so by demanding careful consideration be given to Michele Leonhart’s nomination.

    The Hill is the paper of record on Capitol Hill, so please click here to read my entire commentary and leave respectful feedback. Then please contact your U.S. Senator directly. For your convenience, a pre-written letter will be e-mailed to your member of the U.S. Senate when you click here. You can also call your U.S. Senate office and leave a short message by going here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 12, 2010

    The National Journal reports that the United States Senate Judiciary will decide next week on the nomination of Michele Leonhart to head the Drug Enforcement Administration. NORML, along with numerous other groups, have opposed this nomination — and we continue to urge the Senate to reject Ms. Leonhart for this high ranking federal position.

    DEA Nomination on Track in the Senate Despite Opposition
    via The National Journal

    [excerpt] After a seven-month wait, the Senate Judiciary Committee has set a November 17 hearing on the nomination of Michele Leonhart as Drug Enforcement Administration chief.

    Groups advocating for medicinal marijuana have waged a spirited campaign to derail Leonhart’s confirmation. In a July letter to President Obama, several pro-marijuana groups and liberal organizations, such as FireDogLake and the 10th Amendment Center, accused Leonhart, a Bush administration holdover who is serving as DEA’s acting administrator, of ignoring an October 2009 Justice Department directive urging federal authorities not to waste government time and resources “on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws.”

    President Obama offered a similar view while campaigning in 2008.

    Though the number of DEA raids on medicinal marijuana growers has dropped, the agency has carried out dozens since the directive was issued. [Author’s Note: Read about one of the federal government’s most recent prosecutions here.] The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and other groups accuse Leonhart of continuing a policy she helped oversee while a top DEA deputy under Bush.

    Leonhart has also irked marijuana advocates by overruling a DEA law judge’s ruling giving a University of Massachusetts professor, Lyle Craker, a license to grow marijuana for FDA-approved research. Critics noted that the ruling leaves intact a decades-old monopoly by the University of Mississippi as the country’s only legal producer of marijuana for medical research. Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., has funneled millions of dollars in earmarks to the center, housed in a building that bears his name.

    Citing such concerns, groups opposed to Leonhart’s confirmation have launched letter-writing campaigns and online petitions calling for her nomination to be withdrawn or rejected, and they have won support in a series of sympathetic editorials this year.

    What the groups have not been able to do, however, is get the attention of the White House or the Senate.

    In addition to the actions above, Ms. Leonhart has steadfastly neglected to reply to an eight-year old petition to reschedule marijuana for medical use, which was supported by NORML and was called for by the American Medical Association and a growing number of states and federal judges.

    Further, Ms. Leonhart has publicly called the increasing level of drug prohibition-related violence on the U.S/Mexican border — violence that is now attributed to over 31,000 deaths since December 2006 — as a sign of the “success” of America’s drug war strategies.

    “Our view is that the violence we have been seeing is a signpost of the success our very courageous Mexican counterparts are having,” Leonhart told the publication Government Executive in 2009. “The cartels are acting out like caged animals, because they are caged animals.”

    Is this really the sort of person we want running the top anti-drug enforcement group in the land?!

    Ms. Leonhart’s actions and ambitions are incompatible with common sense marijuana law reform and the stated policies of this administration. Please urge the Senate to reject this nomination. For your convenience, a pre-written letter will be e-mailed to your member of the U.S. Senate when you click here. You can also call your U.S. Senate office here.

    You can also check out this latest post from our allies at Just Say Now: Senate Likely to Approve Obama’s Pot-Hating, Insubordinate DEA Head Next Week.