Medical Cannabis Advocates Call For New Direction at DEA New DEA Leadership Clears Way For Rescheduling and Other Needed Reforms
April 22, 2015 | Christopher Brown
WASHINGTON, DC- Several news reports have circulated suggesting that Michele Leonhart, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is resigning. Leonhart has been criticized by medical cannabis advocates as well as members of Congress for her unwillingness to adhere to the Obama Administration's stated policies on medical cannabis. Under Leonhart the DEA led increased raids against medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivators in defiance of guidance from the Department of Justice steering them away from cases that targeted state-legal medical cannabis patients. The legacy of Leonhart includes opposing sentencing guidelines reforms embraced by the Obama Administration and other law enforcement agencies, working to maintain cannabis’ Schedule I status, and claiming that rising drug war violence in Mexico was a sign of success. During a notable Congressional oversight hearing in 2012, Leonhart refused to state if she thought crack or heroin were more dangerous than cannabis. When President Obama stated in a 2014 New York Times interview that he felt cannabis was no more dangerous than alcohol, Leonhart defiantly spoke out against the President.
“Michele Leonhart, a Bush Administration holdover, has been out of line with this administration's policies on medical cannabis and has consistently been a roadblock to the rescheduling cannabis,” said Steph Sherer executive director of Americans for Safe Access. “We encourage to President Obama to pick an administrator that better reflects his stated desire to design policies that reflect the science on medical cannabis rather than outdated ideologies.”
During Leonhart’s tenure the Obama Administration has spent over an average of $180,000 a day interfering with state medical cannabis programs and conducted over 300 raids against targeting medical cannabis patients and providers. New leadership will give DEA a chance to reallocate its resources away from targeting state-legal medical cannabis programs and the patients that depend on them.
Americans for Safe Access is calling on President Obama to select a replacement to head the DEA who more accurately reflects his views on medical cannabis, who said in a recent interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta that medical cannabis "may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue," and called for the nation to approach this issue from a "public health model and not just from an incarceration model."