Rockefeller: Why I Confirmed Michelle Leonhart for DEA


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Dear Robert,

Thank you for contacting me about Michele Leonhart’s nomination to be Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. It is always good to hear from a fellow West Virginian, and I appreciate this opportunity to be in touch.

On February 2, 2010, President Obama nominated Michele Leonhart to serve as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. She has served as Acting Administrator since November 2007 and, before that, served as Deputy Administrator. Her nomination was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote on December 1, 2010, and she was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on December 22, 2010.

The role of the Senate to confirm or not confirm nominees put forward by the President is an extremely important Constitutional duty that no Senator undertakes lightly. I assure you that prior to voting on any nominee, I carefully review their qualifications and listen closely to what you and other West Virginians have to say.  In this case, I believe that Administrator Leonhart has the right qualifications for this job and that there is a need to have stable leadership at federal agencies, especially at an agency with the important mission of combating drug trafficking.

I have heard from several West Virginians who are concerned about Ms. Leonhart’s stance on medical marijuana. The legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has fueled heated debate for years. Proponents of legalization argue that marijuana can provide therapeutic relief to individuals suffering from diseases such as cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and neurological and movement disorders Opponents maintain that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks accepted safety, even for use under medical supervision.

Over the years, Congress has acted to uphold federal statute by passing various measures that reaffirm marijuana’s status as a Schedule I controlled substance. Although bills have been introduced to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical use in states that permit it, Congress has consistently rejected this idea on the grounds that valid clinical evidence does not exist to verify the therapeutic benefits of marijuana.

You should know that I am opposed to the recreational use of all illegal drugs. I am very proud of my long record of fighting drug abuse and crime related to it. I have voted to support harsh penalties for drug offenders and have worked hard to make funding available so our police can properly train and equip themselves for the war on drugs. I believe it is very important to punish drug offenders, help the addicted when we can, and keep drugs away from our children, and my votes in the Senate reflect those values.

At the same time, I believe that our government must enact policies that are effective, and not merely punitive, as we work to prevent drug abuse. That is why I am committed to providing treatment where it is appropriate, enforcement where it is necessary, and education in healthful choices for everyone. Rehabilitation services must be a priority in order to help those with drug addiction, which could save many lives and many families, and over time will be a bargain compared to the ravages of crime, increased health care costs, and the overwhelming costs of incarcerating so many of our state’s youth.

Thank you again for being in touch. I wish you the very best.
With Warm Regards,

Jay Rockefeller


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