By Ben Morris
As expected, President Obama has nominated acting head of the DEA Michele Leonhart to take the post on permanently. We have been generally happy with the Justice Department during Obama’s freshman year, but it would be nice to see a new face at DEA. Here’s why.
Early in Leonhart’s career, she was the Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division, where she oversaw President George W. Bush’s brutal tactic of raiding and arresting medical marijuana patients. Most readers will remember the raids on dispensaries that remained a part of the former president’s war on drugs until 2009, but during the early years of the Bush administration, these raids were directed at individual patients, not just distributors. The raids were intended to send a political message and undermine emerging medical marijuana laws. Bush was smitten with Leonhart’s work fighting innocent cancer patients, and in 2003, he promoted her to deputy director.
In that role, Leonhart rejected the application of Professor Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to research marijuana’s medical value. Professor Craker was proposing the kind of project considered essential if marijuana is ever to be licensed by the FDA as a prescription medicine, and a DEA administrative law judge ruled in Craker’s favor. Leonhart, however, ignored the judge’s ruling and denied Craker’s application. Her reasons were transparently phony: an ideological opposition to medical marijuana dressed up in pseudoscientific language. This is precisely the sort of nonsense Obama has pledged to end.
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At a news conference in April, Michele Leonhart said that legalizing drugs “would be a failed law enforcement strategy for both the U.S. and Mexico.”