Drug Law

Feds are Wrong: Michele Leonhart Not Right for DEA

| by Marijuana Policy Project

One month after MPP and an ideologically diverse coalition of drug policy reformers and advocacy groups called on President Obama to withdraw Michele Leonhart as his nominee for DEA administrator, a spokesperson for the White House has declared that the president is confident that the Bush holdover is the “right” choice for the job. Mike Riggs has the story in The Daily Caller:

Obama is confident that Leonhart is the right choice, the White House staffer said, and that as of Friday the president wasn’t considering anyone else for the position. In other words, the response from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to a chorus of concerns boils down to: Leonhart or bust.

MPP and others – including FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher and the states-rights group the Tenth Amendment Center – pointed to Leonhart’s interim leadership of the DEA, which has included federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana providers and the denial of medical marijuana research applications, as evidence that she is continuing Bush-era policies that Obama promised to end. During the campaign, and in an October memo from the Department of Justice, the president and his administration pledged to end federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana providers.

But when Riggs asked the feds whether recent raids in California violate the spirit of the October memo, spokespeople for both the White House and DOJ seemed to backtrack on the president’s pledge.

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But the White House and the Justice Department both told TheDC that Holder’s memo does not give dispensaries carte blanche to grow or sell marijuana, and that recent raids don’t conflict with what Obama expressed while campaigning.

“I wouldn’t say the memo ‘discourages’ certain raids,” a DOJ offical told TheDC. Rather, “it talks about prioritizing resources most efficiently.” And both the White House and the DOJ argued that the gist of the Holder memo was that the DEA would “not focus its limited resources on individual patients with cancer or other serious diseases.”

One can’t help but wonder, with the nomination of Leonhart, the ongoing raids, and this type of public about-face on the issue, if President Obama is now reneging on his campaign pledge to approach medical marijuana issues differently than his predecessor.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs thinks it’s absurd to even suggest such a thing. “I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush,” Gibbs said recently. “Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it’s crazy.”

Crazy is exactly right, Mr. Gibbs. I mean, it’s not like President Obama picked the same person George W. Bush did to lead the DEA, and has insisted on standing by her while she employs the same policies that were in place under Bush. Oh wait …