|Photo: Huffington Post
|Michele Leonhart, acting administrator of the DEA, is a Bush-era drug warrior who has overseen raids of legal medical marijuana dispensaries — yet Obama is keeping her on.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing tomorrow for Michele Leonhart to serve as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a post Leonhart has held on an interim basis for two years after serving as deputy administrator under the Bush Administration from 2003 to 2007.
During her tenure, Leonhart has presided over hundreds of paramilitary DEA raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Even after the Department of Justice, in an October 2009 memo, instructed federal prosecutors to no longer target medical marijuana providers “whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with state laws,” the DEA, under Leonhart’s “leadership,” has continued to raid individuals and collectives operating under state law.
DEA agents in July flouted a pioneering Mendocino County, California ordinance to regulate medical marijuana cultivation by raiding the very first grower
to register with the sheriff.
Joy Greenfield, 68, had paid more than $1,000 for a permit to cultivate 99 plants in a collective garden that had been inspected and approved by the local sheriff. Informed that Greenfield had the support of the sheriff, the DEA agent in charge responded by saying, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.”
|Photo: Free Market Mojo
|Neill Franklin, LEAP: “Before the spillover violence gets any worse, the DEA needs a director who can engage world leaders in this debate and come to a solution”
A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating marijuana and other drugs has sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee opposing President Obama’s nomination Leonhart to head the DEA.
“As a police officer, I made arrests of drug users because I was held accountable for enforcing the law whether I agreed with it or not,” wrote Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics cop, in his testimony on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
(LEAP), which he leads as executive director.
“Ms. Leonhart should be held similarly accountable for her actions which were inconsistent with guidance from the Department of Justice, as well as President Obama’s clear intentions based on his popular campaign pledges,” Franklin wrote.
The criminal justice professionals of LEAP are also concerned with Leonhart’s apparent disregard for the value of human life, since she once called the gruesome violence in Mexico’s illegal drug market a sign of “success” for U.S. drug policy.
“The tens of thousands of civilian deaths, which have continued to skyrocket since Ms. Leonhart’s statement, should not be measure as a sign of success,” Franklin wrote. “Former Mexican President Vicente Fox and at least three additional former Latin American presidents have pointed out the failure of the U.S.-led War On Drugs and called for drastic change.”
“The situation in Mexico is grave and escalating rapidly, putting U.S. citizens in danger,” Franklin wrote. “Before the spillover violence gets any worse, the DEA needs a director who can engage world leaders in this debate and come to a solution.”
“During Ms. Leonhart’s confirmation hearing, I hope Senators ask how she plans to engage with local authorities in the growing number of states where medical marijuana is legal,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project
“In order to comply with the Justice Department’s directive, the DEA needs to adopt a policy whereby agents consult with local law enforcement to determine whether someone is in compliance with local laws — before they raid and seize private property,” Fox said.
Leonhart’s nomination is opposed by the MPP, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), California NORML, LEAP, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the 10th Amendment Center, and Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of the progressive political blog Firedoglake.
Leonhard has served as acting administrator of the DEA for two years. The hearing to confirm her as administrator takes place before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, November 17, at 2:30 p.m., at 226 Dirksen Senate Office building.