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September 2021


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Tag: Michele Leonhart

Drug Policy Alliance: DEA Chief Michele Leonhart Should Resign Over Defiance

Michele Leonhart

By Bill Piper
Director of National Affairs for Drug Policy Alliance

For months Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart has openly rebuked the drug policy reform policies of Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama with one embarrassing statement after another. Now she is picking a fight with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Y) and other members of Congress over hemp. Meanwhile the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General has launched an investigation into multiple scandals plaguing the agency. It is clear that Leonhart lacks the ability to lead and should resign. Activists are using the Twitter hashtag #FireLeonhart.

The DEA created a political firestorm this week when it seized seeds bound for a Kentucky hemp research program that was approved by Congress. Even Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has weighed in, telling Politico last night, “It is an outrage that DEA is using finite taxpayer dollars to impound legal industrial hemp seeds.” The Kentucky Agriculture Department is suing the agency. The seizure is the latest misstep by the agency, which is being investigated by the Department of Justice for numerous scandals.

Earlier this month the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector Generallaunched investigations into numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data to both spy on virtually all Americans and to systematically fabricate evidence, controversial uses of confidential informants, airline passenger searches, and sexual misconduct. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart herself has been at the center of several scandals, including the House of Death scandal in which the DEA may have turned a blind eye to torture and murder, and the Andrew Chambers scandal, in which the DEA rehired a confidential informant with a history of lying.

Moreover, Leonhart is increasingly publicly opposing drug policy reforms being pursued by her bosses, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. She publicly rebuked President Obama for admitting that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuana even in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and has spoken out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress that the Obama Administration is supporting.

To read more click here.

DEA-Led Crackdown on Synthetic Drugs Netted 150 Arrests Across 29 States

Steve Neavling

The DEA carried out a nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs early Wednesday, netting 150 arrests and at least $20 million in cash and assets, Time reports.

This is the second phase of an operation dubbed “Project Synergy,” which began in December 2012 and went after products marketed as “spice,” “bath salts,” and “molly.” Those drugs are dangerous because they’re often laced with illegal chemicals that cause dangerous symptoms and health problems.

The operation focused on 29 states and included roads of hundreds of warehouses, smoke shops and houses.

“Many who manufacture, distribute and sell these dangerous synthetic drugs found out first hand today that DEA will target, find and prosecute those who have committed these crimes,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.

DEA Worried About Fido Or Running Out of Reasons to Keep Marijuana Illegal?

DEA stock photo

Steve Neavling

Is the DEA running out of ideas to reverse the seismic shift in attitudes about marijuana?

DEA Chief Michele Leonhart told congressional members this week that pot can kill Fido, citing evidence that dogs have died after eating marijuana-infused food, the Huffington Post reports.

“There was just an article last week, and it was on pets. It was about the unanticipated or unexpected consequences of this, and how veterinarians now are seeing dogs come in, their pets come in, and being treated because they’ve been exposed to marijuana,” Leonhart said.

Leonart is referring to dogs that have eaten edibles and was referencing a USA Today story that said dogs could die while throwing up pot products, like butter. But Leonart didn’t mention that the article added that “marijuana itself isn’t particularly harmful to dogs,” and that dogs rarely eat marijuana by itself.

Defiant DEA Chief: Pot Legalization Just ‘Makes Us Fight Harder’

Michele Leonhart

Steve Neavling

As marijuana legalization shifts in public opinion, state laws and within the Obama administration, the DEA is pledging to fight even harder, said DEA Chief Michele Leonhart Wednesday.

The Huffington Post reports that Leonhart, speaking during testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee, maintains voters were duped into approving marijuana legalization in Washington state and Colorado by pot propaganda.

“It’s of great concern to us the messages we hear on television, in the radio, in songs — and now, my fear is that kids are hearing it from their own parents,” Leonhart said. “It’s important to have the facts about marijuana put out there in ways that kids, teens, young adults, parents can look at it and see that what they’ve been sold — that this is no big deal — is not true.”

Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, questioned why Obama is holding onto Leonhart since she is obstructing his administration’s policies.

“Publicly criticizing and questioning the competence of your supervisor would get anyone fired in the private sector,” Riffle said in a statement. “It’s frankly astounding to me that Ms. Leonhart is still employed and American taxpayers continue to foot her $165,000 salary to publicly campaign against the president’s policies.”


Lengel: The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Needs to Do Better

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel

The issue over the legalization of marijuana is a very heated one these days. It’s also very complicated. Federal law and state laws  clash.

It’s confusing.

An intelligent, mature airing of opinions is not only good, but necessary.

But I have to say I found it a little bothersome when I read a press release by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association on the matter. The language used was not very sophisticated.

It resorted to name calling. It only undermined its effectiveness.  I think its members deserve better.

The release attacked the Marijuana Policy Project’s (MPP)  efforts to fire DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, who was critical of President Obama’s comments about pot. Obama  said it was no worse than alcohol. He essentially said it wasn’t that big of a deal, though he said he didn’t recommend his children smoke.

The release referred to the marijuana organization as “pot-loving” and suggested the group made the decision to  remove Leonhart  “perhaps while under the influence of a mind altering substance.”

The association’s president Jon Adler then said: “We do not subscribe to the “smoke a doobie and balance budget” economic theory.”  (Whatever that means.)

Washington is already full of hot air and divisive dialogue. I think the Association would serve its members better by issuing forceful statements that have a little more sophistication.


Updated: War of Words Heats Up in Controversy Over DEA’s Leonhart’s Criticism of Obama’s Remarks

Michele Leonhart/dea photo

By Allan Lengel

The war on drugs has turned into a war of words.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FlEOA)is publicly defending DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, who criticized President Obama’s remarks downplaying the dangers of pot. He said it was no more dangerous than alcohol.

The Marijuana Policy Project has called for her head and is petitioning the White House to fire her.

In a press release that mocks the marijuana organization, FLEOA stated: “The pot-loving MPP group concluded, perhaps while under the influence of a mind altering substance, that Administrator Leonhart should be replaced because she allegedly disagreed with comments made by President Obama.”

“Demonstrating an alarming form of hypocrisy, the MPP seeks to trample on the Administrator’s freedom of speech — a Constitutional right — while trumpeting their new-found Colorado freedom to get high in public and spread the stench of their smoke,” the press release said.

FLEOA National President Jon Adler said in a statement: “Administrator Leonhart is one of the best enforcement leaders in our country, and she continues to do a commendable job leading the premiere agency that enforces our nation’s drug laws.”

Updated Tuesday, 4:55 p.m.


Dan Riffle, Director of Federal Policies for the Marijuana Policy Projected responded with this statement:

Much like Ms. Leonhart, the FLEOA doesn’t have their facts straight. We’re not calling for her to be fired because she disagrees with President Obama. We’re calling for her to be fired because she either doesn’t understand or is intentionally ignoring basic scientific facts, and it’s her job to make decisions based on those facts. Marijuana is less addictive, less toxic, less harmful to the body, and unlike alcohol, doesn’t cause violent behavior. It is objectively less harmful than alcohol, yet Ms. Leonhart has obstructed efforts to remove marijuana from its current classification as a “Schedule I” drug alongside heroin and methamphetamine. In other words, she is disregarding the obligations of her job, and undermining her employer’s commitment to scientific integrity in policy-making.

We’re also not trying to trample her First Amendment freedom of speech rights. If Ms. Leonhart would like to proclaim the world is flat, that’s her right, but the American public shouldn’t be force to hand over $165,000 of their hard-earned tax dollars to pay her an exorbitant salary for doing so.

One thing the FLEOA is correct about is that under Ms. Leonhart’s leadership the DEA has amassed an “impressive record.” They have an impressive record of giving guns to Mexican drug cartels, using NSA data to illegally spy on Americans, concealing evidence from defendants, prosecutors and judges, and jailing someone without food or water for days costing taxpayers $4.1 million in a legal judgment.

Understandably, Americans aren’t very impressed with that record, which is perhaps why more than 18,000 people have signed our petition calling for her removal. I urge the FLEOA to join them.



Pro-Pot Group Calls for Obama to Fire DEA Chief Over Statements About Marijuana

Steve Neavling

The DEA is so out of step with the nation and President Obama on marijuana that the agency’s chief should be fired, a leading marijuana reform group said.

The Huffington Post reports that the Marijuana Policy Project’s call for resignation comes after DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart spoke out firmly against marijuana legalization last week.

The criticism of legalizing pot appeared to be a response to Obama comparing marijuana’s dangers to alcohol.

“Whether Ms. Leonhart is ignorant of the facts or intentionally disregarding them, she is clearly unfit for her current position,” Dan Riffle, the group’s director of federal policies, said in a statement.

“The DEA administrator’s continued refusal to recognize marijuana’s relative safety compared to alcohol and other drugs flies in the face of the president’s commitment to prioritizing science over ideology and politics,” the statement continued. “She is neglecting the basic obligations of her job and fundamentally undermining her employer’s mission. This would be grounds for termination in the private sector, and the consequences for Ms. Leonhart should be no different.”


Parker: Bravo to DEA’s Michele Leonhart for Criticizing the President’s Remarks About Pot

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart was apparently critical of President Obama’s recent remarks about marijuana in a closed-door session with the Major Counties’ Sheriff’s Association in Washington last week, according to an article in the Boston Herald on Saturday. She received a standing ovation.

Exactly what she said and how critical she was has not been made public. She expressed frustration over the administration’s response to legalization by Colorado and Washington primarily because of the mixed message that it sends to high school aged kids.

DEA spokesperson Dawn Deardon “clarified” the Administrator’s remarks by stating that they were not against the President. In other words, don’t fire her for expressing semi-privately what law enforcement officers are saying openly—that President Obama’s remarks were irresponsible and erroneous.

The President’s remarks were made to an interviewer for The New Yorker’s January 27 issue. He gave his opinion that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and even less so in terms of the health effects on an individual. He freely admitted smoking pot as a kid, a habit that was “not something that I encourage…a waste of time, and not very healthy.”

Setting aside the issue of the wisdom of the recreational use by adults, the problem with his gratuitous opinions especially for law enforcement observers and those who counsel teen agers is twofold. They contribute to the confusing chaos of the nation’s marijuana laws and their enforcement. And they send the message to American teens that smoking pot is no big deal. After all, if Obama did it regularly and grew up to be President, how harmful can it be?

The President’s favorable opinion on legalization in Colorado and Washington throws fuel on the fire of the inconsistent mess of America’s laws on the use and distribution of marijuana. Less than two decades ago it was illegal everywhere in all forms. In 1996 California legalized “medical marijuana” and 19 other states have followed suit.

DEA's Michele Leonhart/dea photo

Ten years ago “recreational” use of marijuana was illegal. Since then personal use decriminalizations have been instituted in Alaska, Massachusetts, Delaware, Rhode Island, Colorado and Washington. The legislation in the latter two states is particularly significant since it legalizes possession, distribution, and cultivation with some conditions. Moreover, proposed legislation, pushed by well funded lobbyists, is pending in more than a dozen states plus Congress to escalate this trend.

Meanwhile marijuana is illegal in all forms in the United States Code and is treated as a serious crime in many states.

The Attorney General announced last summer that DOJ would not challenge medical or recreational use state statutes but would continue to concentrate on large traffickers and demand reduction for children.

But this inconsistent dual enforcement federal system makes no sense to someone who has to make moral and practical decisions about their own conduct. It is even more problematic for prosecutors and law enforcement agents in doing their jobs. One federal agent from Los Angeles told me recently that the legalization trend and the uncertainty were seriously undermining public respect for the drug laws in general and those charged with enforcing them.

Then, too, there are the perplexing problems of jury nullification for front line prosecutors, plea and prosecution guidelines for U. S, Attorneys, sentence guidelines and imposition choices in particular cases for federal judges.

Perhaps more aggravating about the President’s seemingly offhand comments is the shrugging, luke warm advice that he gives to kids. Have you considered, Mr. President, that the highly potent weed today poses vastly greater hazards to kids than the 2% THC stuff that you smoked?

A lot of people in the field think that using today’s marijuana has the potential for reducing young users’ intellectual ability, robbing them of motivation, lowering their ability to concentrate, and aggravating emotional problems and mental conditions. Your tsk-tsking attitude undercuts the life’s work of teachers, parents, counselors, and health professionals.

And, for God’s sake, will some qualified person do a legitimate study to test his assertion that poor kids and children of color are suffering the unduly harsh penalties of jail as a result of petty marijuana offenses, i.e., those not connected with distribution and other crimes?

Assuming that was once the case, I have serious doubts that police and federal agents are doing that today. To the contrary, my impression is that they, along with drug courts and other professionals, are fighting an uphill battle to get treatment for the increasing number of users who need help. The upward trend in the hospital emergency room admissions supports the need for this kind of intervention. And more.

So, Mr. President, my kids think you are cool and pay attention to what you say. But, if you don’t mind, I would prefer that you not give them advice on why they shouldn’t smoke pot. It’s more than just a bad habit and a waste of time.

And Administrator Leonhart, bravo for some truth-telling. Have the courage of your convictions in a city where that is a rarity.

If it costs you your job after such a distinguished law enforcement career, you will always have the respect of thousands of us who admired you for standing up and saying what you believe.