WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Michele Leonhart, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), repeatedly criticized the Obama administration at a hearing Wednesday on the DEA's budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
In a memo released in July 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would not interfere with the effective implementation of laws regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adults in Colorado and Washington. When asked by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) during a Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing whether the Obama administration's tolerant views toward legal marijuana had affected morale at the DEA, which is a branch of the DOJ, Leonhart replied that "our agents are fighting back against those messages. It makes us fight harder." She had earlier criticized the DOJ for a perceived delay in issuing a response to Washington and Colorado's new laws, claiming there was "a lot of confusion in those 296 days."
Leonhart also claimed that public opinion in Colorado is turning against the initiative making marijuana legal, yet two recent polls suggest Colorado residents are more supportive of the law than ever before. A Public Policy Polling survey from March showed that 57% of Colorado voters think marijuana should be legal, and a Quinnipiac poll from February showed 58% support for the state's legalization law. It was supported by 54.8% of voters in 2012. Finally, Leonhart claimed legalization would be dangerous to pets in Colorado and warned of a surge in veterinary clinic visits due to dogs consuming marijuana.
While Leonhart was testifying to the committee, the Pew Research Center released a poll showing 75% of Americans believe the sale and use of marijuana will eventually be made legal nationwide, and more than 60% believe alcohol is more harmful to individual health and to society than marijuana. The poll can be viewed online at http://www.people-press.org/2014/04/02/americas-new-drug-policy-landscape/
The Marijuana Policy Project has launched a Change.org petition calling on the president to fire Leonhart and replace her with someone who will base decisions on science and evidence instead of politics and ideology. The petition currently has more than 29,000 signatures and is available at https://www.change.org/petitions/president-barack-obama-fire-anti-marijuana-dea-administrator-michele-leonhart.
Statement from Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:
Administrator Leonhart's comments were shocking. The DEA is not simply ignoring the administration's policies with respect to regulating marijuana, but actively undermining them. Publicly criticizing and questioning the competence of your supervisor would get anyone fired in the private sector. 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.
As more Americans recognize that marijuana is safer than alcohol, more think we need to start treating it that way. Michele Leonhart is standing in the way, and it is time for her to go.