The National Journal reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee will move the nomination on Michele Leonhart for DEA administrator next week after a seven-month delay. Leonhart, a drug warrior to the core, has served as the temporary head of DEA since she was promoted to that position by George W. Bush in 2007.
In her time at the DEA, Leonhart has organized the campaign against medical marijuana, and ignored the clear directive from Attorney General Eric Holder to stop raiding dispensaries. Despite this flagrant insubordination, President Obama saw fit to nominate Leonhart to serve as the official DEA head earlier this year.
Groups advocating for medicinal marijuana have waged a spirited campaign to derail Leonhart’s confirmation. In a July letter to President Obama, several pro-marijuana groups and liberal organizations, such as FireDogLake and the 10th Amendment Center, accused Leonhart, a Bush administration holdover who is serving as DEA’s acting administrator, of ignoring an October 2009 Justice Department directive urging federal authorities not to waste government time and resources “on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws.”
President Obama offered a similar view while campaigning in 2008.
Though the number of DEA raids on medicinal marijuana growers has dropped, the agency has carried out dozens since the directive was issued. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and other groups accuse Leonhart of continuing a policy she helped oversee while a top DEA deputy under Bush.
And now, it looks like Leonhart will move through the Senate next week, with few signs that anyone in the Senate will actually fight her nomination, let alone stop it.
What the groups have not been able to do, however, is get the attention of the White House or the Senate.
“The federal government ignoring the concerns of people in the marijuana-reform community is nothing new,” said Mike Meno, a spokesman for the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project.
Public-opinion polls show growing support for marijuana legalization, and a small medicinal-marijuana industry is taking leaf in California. But Leonhart’s likely confirmation, and the defeat of a California’s Proposition 19, a ballot measure that would have weakened anti-marijuana California’s laws, show that the political clout of legalization advocates remains well short of their numbers, particularly when it comes to the Senate.
California’s liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., for example, opposed Proposition 19 during her successful reelection bid.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., this fall said he did not yet have a position on Leonhart; other committee members, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said the same. Committee aides said that criticism of her over marijuana policy had not registered much with staffers, let alone members.
Let’s be clear here: the public overwhelmingly supports medical marijuana, and the President and Attorney General of the United States have said the federal government should not waste resources targeting medical marijuana dispensaries. Leonhart doesn’t give a shit, and continues to harass medical marijuana dispensaries anyway, and neither Obama nor Holder see the clear hypocrisy of giving Leonhart a promotion under these circumstances.
Now the same Senate that unanimously voted to increase penalties for pot brownies will likely let Leonhart coast through the chamber in a lame-duck session next week. Chairman Patrick Leahy said he doesn’t have an opinion on Leonhart, and we all know what Dianne “Reefer Madness” Feinstein must think. There really isn’t a play to stop her nomination, unless anyone has some embarassing photographs that should turn up in the next week.
Leonhart’s nomination by Obama – and her inevitable approval by the Senate – is yet another sign that the public is far ahead of politicians on marijuana and the need to end the War on Drugs. Letting voters choose to legalize marijuana is the only way to end the war on marijuana.