Senate Committee to Question DEA Head Nominee Michele Leonhart Tomorrow

Nov 16, 2010

DEA, Michele Leonhart, raids, Senate Judiciary Committee

After serving two years as interim DEA administrator, where she oversaw continued raids on medical marijuana providers and personally rejected an application for FDA-level research on marijuana, Michele Leonhart is scheduled for a confirmation hearing tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While her nomination has been widely opposed by drug policy reform groups – including MPP – it appears all but certain that Leonhart will be confirmed by the Senate.

President Bush first nominated Leonhart for this position in 2007. The Obama administration re-nominated her in February, even though she has overseen actions that contradict Obama administration directives and made comments that clearly counter reality. The most egregious:

  • Despite last year’s Justice Department directive to respect state medical marijuana laws, the DEA under Leonhart’s leadership has repeatedly raided medical marijuana patients and providers who operate under state law. In July, for example, the DEA blatantly ignored a Mendocino County (CA) 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 Ms. Greenfield had the support of the sheriff, the DEA agent in charge responded by saying, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.”
  • In January 2009, Leonhart rejected an application from University of Massachusetts professor Lyle Craker to conduct FDA-level research on marijuana in the hopes of getting it rescheduled. In doing so, she opposed recommendations from both a DEA administrative law judge and the American Medical Association.
  • Last year Leonhart heralded increased drug violence in Mexico – which has claimed about 30,000 lives in four years – as a sign of success: "Our view is that the violence we have been seeing is a signpost of the success our very courageous Mexican counterparts are having,” she said. “The cartels are acting out like caged animals, because they are caged animals.”

Sources say Leonhart’s confirmation is virtually guaranteed, so our best hope is to make sure senators on the Judiciary Committee ask her tough questions. If your senator sits on the Judiciary Committee, you can urge them to press Leonhart on her plans for the future by clicking here.