Drug Policy

Meet the New DEA Administrator…

|

For those hoping that Barack Obama would wage the war on drugs less aggressively than his predecessor, this is not a good sign: Yesterday he announced that the new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration will be Michele Leonhart, a career DEA agent who has been the agency's deputy administrator since March 2004 and its acting administrator since November 2007. That means she oversaw all those gratuitous raids on medical marijuana providers in California, continuing well into the Obama administration despite his promised change of course.

Last February The Washington Times reported that Obama planned to suspend the DEA's raids once he "nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers." Leonhart was the most conspicuous and important of those holdovers. The Times quoted a White House spokesman who said, "The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind." Although that assurance did not, strictly speaking, constitute a promise to change the senior leadership at the DEA, that's the way it sounded. Now what? It certainly seems implausible that the hard-line drug warrior who was all for circumventing state medical marijuana laws when she was only the acting DEA administrator will have a change of heart now that her position is more secure. And as I've noted before, the Justice Department's new policy of leaving medical marijuana growers and distributors alone if they  "are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws" leaves a lot of wiggle room for someone like Leonhart.

That's not to say there is no practical difference between Obama and Bush on drug policy. The combination of Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress has brought substantial improvement in the area of sentencing reform, and this administration may yet prove more tolerant of medical marijuana. One hopeful sign, in addition to the Justice Department's official policy shift, is that Congress finally let Washington, D.C., implement its medical marijuana law. The Obama administration also seems more willing to let neighboring countries move in a less punitive direction without raising a fuss. Still, articles like this one in the London Independent—headlined "US Waves White Flag in Disastrous 'War on Drugs'"—are a bit premature.

Addendum: Dale Gieringer of California NORML reminds me that it was Leonhart who overruled a DEA administrative law judge's recommendation that University of Massachusetts at Amherst scientists be allowed to produce marijuana for research, a function currently monopolized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is more interested in showing how dangerous marijuana is than in exploring its medical utility. That decision really marks Leonhart as an extremist. "If there's one thing on which supporters and critics of medical marijuana agree," says Gieringer, "it's the need for [FDA-approved] studies."

I discussed the bid to break Uncle Sam's marijuana monopoly in 2003 and noted the administrative law judge's favorable ruling in 2007.

[Thanks to LEAP's Tom Angell for the tip.]

NEXT: Was Glenn Beck's History Correct?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. For those hoping that Barack Obama would wage the war on drugs less aggressively than his predecessor […]

    . . . there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell to you.

  2. Yeah, like the DEA stays in business if its head doesn’t see Federal drug laws woefully under-enforced everywhere.

    1. You got it. There is an entire federal LEO industry based on the WOD. Think of all the agencies that do their own narcotics investigations besides the DEA: ICE, FBI, CIA, etc., and probably even others like the ATF and Secret Service get involved because of guns or counterfeiting that goes along with the drug trade.

      1. someone’s been eating their alphabet soup. don’t forget USCG…

        1. crap!

      2. Don’t forget the federal courts, whose funding levels depend on caseloads.

  3. It has been said elsewhere that in a way the fact that Leonhart is being bumped up is a good sign. It means that no one else from outside DEA thinks it’s a job worth having. Perhaps no one wants to be on the watch when cannabis prohibition crumbles.

    1. Rats leaving a sinking ship situation?

  4. Although that assurance did not, strictly speaking, constitute a promise to change the senior leadership at the DEA, that’s the way it sounded.

    The Parsin’ President strikes again!

  5. David Boaz sez “Avatar” is about property rights: http://www.latimes.com/news/op…..6249.story

    1. I think it could certainly be subverted by eminent domain opponents for that purpose. Release a satire involving blue New Yorkers and a Bruce Ratner Development corp (hell, you’re already pretty close RDA right there).

  6. Yesterday he announced that the new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration will be Michele Leonhart, a career DEA agent

    *makes “stunned disbelief” face*

  7. That means she oversaw all those gratuitous raids on medical marijuana providers in California, continuing well into the Obama administration despite his promised change, of course.

    FTFY.

  8. The name Leonhart is latin for “towing the lion”.

    1. i thought that was “tow the marx and walk the lion”.

  9. My eyes may be getting tired or the photo gives her too much justice, but whatever the case may be, she seems quite pretty…

    Maybe I should get back to my Victoria Secret catalogs . . .

    1. Eye of the beholder, I guess.

      1. No, eyes of the beer-holder.

        1. Okay, now your original comment makes a lot more sense.

    2. Come to Phoenix, you might see some beautiful Young Mexicans. That’ll clear up your eyesight.

      You gotta move fast to catch them before they get pregnant, though.

  10. All policy issues aside, at the end of the day, I’m still gonna be doin’ dope.

      1. Sweet truncated URL. Michele Leonhart is hot on your trail, you dazed out hippie.

  11. It could have been worse; he could have named Mary Beth Buchanan.

  12. which is still run by Bush administration holdovers.

    Which we’ll rectify by giving those same people the same positions in my administration.

    Wait, what? Can you blame “the last guy” when you hire those same people once you’re in charge?

    1. “Meet the new boss…”

  13. Well at least she has experiance in the DEA so she know’s she will not be allowed to interfere with the CIA’s cocaine and heroin smuggling profit’s .
    If this is the kind of change obama was talking about then he can certainly kiss a second term goodbye now

  14. Oooh, that sounds like fun. Why don’t you give me your address and I’ll come by to party with you!

    1. If you really work for the
      D.rug E.xporters of A.merica then you already have my address if you dont just get from the C.ocaine I.mporting A.gency since they have access to the FBI’s computers they know where all these IP addy’s are any way. Loss of privacy. another wonderful by product of the failed WOD’s.. If any one did their job as porrly as these agencys have in getting rid of drugs they would have been fired in less than 1 year let alone be allowed to keep doing it this bad for 40 yrs

  15. So all you liberaltarians, how is that Hope and Change working out for you?

  16. Obama doesn’t care about anyone’s freedom of anything, anywhere, from Iran to Humbolt County.

    I don’t know why anyone would think that a guy who doesn’t give a shit about thugs in Iran gunning down young women in the streets for marching against the government would be at all interested in bothering to try and bring some rationality to our nation’s destructive drug laws.

  17. Yes, let’s spend hundreds of billions of dollars and ruin millions of lives in a futile effort to eradicate and prevent the recreational use of a weed. Any society this stupid (which is really most societies)deserves to collapse and the sooner the better.

  18. The growers and exporters can rest easy. Their profit margins are safe for at least a few more years.

    See, the Obama administration really is all about job creation!

    1. Thanks Obama for keeping local gardeners RICH!!

      Screw it, decriminalize it…growers will keep turning a fantastic profit, and dispensaries will get 80$-90$ for an 8th of Cush the patient could have bought for 65$.

      It hurts the patients. But since we don’t care about health care cost in this country…what does it matter?

  19. What are you talking about…there’s water front property in Arizona I want to sell you…right next door to the county jail!

    wait for it…wait… nope not holding my breath.

    Just keep smoking.

  20. Wow. Just wow. There goes the one shred of credibility the guy had left.

  21. I think one could argue that some areas of the DEA’s agenda might be steered heavily by the White House. Leohart screwed UMass under the Bush WH, but we could see a quieter leadership under Obama. Could. The ONDCP’s TV spots have been downright reasonable lately. The days of non-stop anti-pot ads seem behind us.

  22. Well, let’s hope Ms Leonhart has an epiphany similar to Bob Barr’s. Otherwise she is in for some serious disappointment. Cannabis prohibition is DOOMED. Watch us legalize it in ten months!

    Richard P Steeb, San Jose CALIFORNIA

  23. i’m hanicap person that cant get my morphine because of the DEA strong arm tectics against my doctors they have put there selfves between the doctor and the patent this against are rights
    how dair they should all be locked up for threats of volenice…. long live the poppy and lets get are pain under control this world war two tectics just hurt people I cant go on a trip more the 30 days because of meds what a rip off …right now the DEA should stop doing that hitler act on the hanicap the big men they acre and let us manage are live this is the biggest mess ive seen and I will go to the street with this bull. Dea must be put down they have become to out of control gett it poppy poppys for the healing childing… so get of you high horse and do something dea or do you think its funnny I hope you have a painful injury ans somebody gives you a assburn….

  24. i’m hanicap person that cant get my morphine because of the DEA strong arm tectics against my doctors they have put there selfves between the doctor and the patent this against are rights
    how dair they should all be locked up for threats of volenice…. long live the poppy and lets get are pain under control this world war two tectics just hurt people I cant go on a trip more the 30 days because of meds what a rip off …right now the DEA should stop doing that hitler act on the hanicap the big men they acre and let us manage are live this is the biggest mess ive seen and I will go to the street with this bull. Dea must be put down they have become to out of control gett it poppy poppys for the healing childing… so get of you high horse and do something dea or do you think its funnny I hope you have a painful injury ans somebody gives you a assburn….

  25. Perhaps if we had all those who sit in elected seats from the president down pee in a cup, the laws would change faster.

  26. As the deputy director, Ms. Leonhart supervised an unprecedented level of paramilitary-style enforcement raids designed to undermine safe access and the implementation of state medical marijuana programs,” ASA said in an alert to its members.
    http://destinationsoftwareinc.com

  27. Thank you, my dear on this important topic You can also browse my site and I am honored to do this site for songs
    http://www.xn—-fncly6cgydp.com
    This website is for travel to Malaysia
    http://www.xn—-fncly6cgydp.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.