Imagine your old boss left the company and a new boss was taking over. Your job has been to handle sales department and, frankly, you’re pretty lousy at it. Not only has the company lost millions of dollars over your tenure, but some of your work actually led to the deaths of people, which you tried to spin as the fault of your competitors. When your new boss tries to ask you questions about the company sales, you give him a bunch of non-answers to hide your incompetence. Then, as the new boss is giving an address to the whole company, as he explains how he’s set a new course for the company, you stand up in the middle of it all, point to the new boss, and shout, “You’re a terrible boss, your ideas are lousy, and my department is going to fight to make sure your projects fail!”
How long do you think you’d have that job? Well, if the job is Administrator of the DEA and your name is Michele Leonhart, you’d be going on seven years with no sign of being fired.
Michele Leonhart took over for Karen Tandy when she resigned during the Bush Administration in 2007. When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, he kept her on as Acting Administrator of the DEA. In 2010, Obama nominated her for the Administrator job, which the Senate confirmed unanimously by voice vote. Since then, Leonhart’s made headlines for her awful gaffes and mule-headed dedication to absolute marijuana prohibition.
In 2011, the Washington Post reported on the spike in homicide in Northern Mexico. The story related how in 2009 there were over 1,180 children killed in drug-related violence. Leonhart’s reaction to slaughtered Mexican children was saying while it “may seem contradictory, the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs.” Right, you can’t win a drug war without a thousand or more dead kids, huh Michele?
When you’re the DEA Administrator, you are constrained by statute to oppose the legalization of any drug in Schedule I. That designation includes heroin, LSD, PCP, peyote and, incorrectly, cannabis, and represents drugs with high potential for abuse, no medical value, and no safe use under medical supervision. That cannabis remains in a schedule with no medical value while Schedule II drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine can be prescribed for medical use in the United States is insane.
That’s why Leonhart ended up sounding so insane when she was being grilled in Congress by Colorado Congressman Jared Polis and Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen back in 2012:
Polis: Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?
Leonhart: I believe all illegal drugs are bad.
Polis: Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?
Leonhart: I don’t think any illegal drug is good.
Polis: (Slightly cutting off Leonhart) Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?
Leonhart: Again, all drugs…
Polis: (Cutting off Leonhart) It’s either ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘I don’t know.’ If you don’t know you can look this up. You should know as the Chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?
Rep. Cohen’s didn’t get much more of a response:
Cohen: Would you agree that marijuana causes less harm to individuals than meth, crack, cocaine, and heroin?”
Leonhart: As a former police officer, as a 32-year DEA agent, I can tell you that I think marijuana is an insidious drug.
Cohen: That’s not the question I asked you ma’am. Does [marijuana] cause less damage to the American society and to individuals than meth, crack, cocaine, and heroin? Does it make people have to kill to get their fix?
Leonhart: I can tell you that more teens enter treatment for…
Cohen: (Cutting off Leonhart) Can you answer my question?
Then this year in January, Leonhart was speaking to a national gathering of sheriffs. She slammed the Obama Administration’s tolerance of Colorado and Washington legalization. According to one sheriff in attendance, “she said her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA was when she learned they’d flown a hemp flag over the Capitol on July 4.” Not the tens of thousands of dead Mexicans, not the resurgent overdose deaths from heroin, but a hemp flag like the ones our Founding Fathers flew.
According to the sheriff who spoke to the Boston Herald about the closed-door event, Leonhart was angry that President Obama said that marijuana was no more harmful than alcohol. “She said she felt the administration didn’t understand the science enough to make those statements,” the sheriff explained. And if a hemp flag drew her ire, what else got her prohibition panties in a bunch? “She was particularly frustrated with the fact that, according to her, the White House participated in a softball game with a pro-legalization group.” She’s probably even more frustrated that in the past two years, the White House has been beaten by legalizers by scores of 25-3 and 5-2.
But now Leonhart has gone even farther beyond what most employers would tolerate from their managers. In a hearing for the DEA’s budget, Leonhart repeatedly criticized her boss’s policy toward marijuana legalization. In response to a question about the Administration’s tolerance, Leonhart said, “our agents are fighting back against those messages. It makes us fight harder.” She also lied about Colorado residents turning against legalization when two polls out in February and March showed more Colorado voters’ support for Amendment 64 than when it passed in November.
While it’s long past time for President Obama to fire Michele Leonhart, given the DEA’s mandate to oppose all legalization of marijuana, how would the next appointee be any different? We won’t see any sane federal position on marijuana until it is removed from Schedule I, period.