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DEA Head Warns Of Risks Of Marijuana Legalization

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michele leonhart dea marijuanaBy Phillip Smith

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday to warn of the dangers of marijuana legalization and affirm her support for mandatory minimum sentences.

Her testimony put her increasingly at odds with the administration that employs her. The Obama administration has made clear that it is not going to interfere with legal marijuana in states that have approved it—unless some of its eight listed enforcement priorities are in play—and it has made it clear that it views mandatory minimum sentencing as a failed policy.

Leonhart mentioned two of the enforcement priorities—the leakage of marijuana to non-legal states and the use of the herb by minors—in her statement to the committee. She said she is worried by an increase in marijuana trafficking in states surrounding Colorado and that the same thing could happen in Washington state. She also worried that increasing acceptance of marijuana would lead to increased use.

“The trends are what us in law enforcement had expected would happen,” she said. “In 2012, 438,000 Americans were addicted to heroin. And 10 times that number were dependent on marijuana.” But she did not provide any evidence tying the number of marijuana users to changing attitudes or laws.

The DEA is indeed concerned about marijuana legalization. Three months ago, DEA chief of operations James Capra called legalization in the states reckless and irresponsible and warned of looming disaster.

“It scares us,” Capra said during a Senate hearing in January. “Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again.”

Except that marijuana legalization has never been tried anywhere before Uruguay, Colorado, and Washington made the leap too recently to cite. In the Netherlands, where authorities turn a blind eye to sales at cannabis coffee shops and which is often cited as an example of “legalization,” life goes on and marijuana use rates are well with European norms.

Leonhart continued singing the same old tune Wednesday, warning that emergency room visits related to marijuana increased by 28% between 2007 and 2011.

ER visits may be up, but it’s the quality, not just the quantity that also matters. Marijuana has no overdose potential; most marijuana-related ER visits are panic attacks or anxiety reactions, not life-threatening events.

Leonhart also had kind words for mandatory minimums, even though her immediate boss, Attorney General Eric Holder has said they create cruel, disproportionate punishments and contribute to federal prison overcrowding.

“Having been in law enforcement as an agent for 33 years [and]a Baltimore City police officer before that, I can tell you that for me and for the agents that work at the DEA, mandatory minimums have been very important to our investigations,” said Leonhart, in response to a question from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). “We depend on those as a way to ensure that the right sentences equate the level of violator we are going after.”

Leonhart is a holdover from the Bush administration. It is unclear how long she can continue to fit in under an Obama administration that is moving forward on drug policy reform.

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192 Comments

  1. Skrunklesthepig on

    How would you know assumer? Have you seen their wages for their lifetime? NO! Technically they didn’t put anywhere near what they receive vs. what they actually contributed. But that involves math and investment skills that you obviously are clueless about. AS well as being just a uninformed slug.

  2. Skrunklesthepig on

    So termite brain…did you notice anything unlawful yet going down on our border states to the south or is this something you missed while pretending to be smart in your parents basement?

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  4. Skrunklesthepig on

    You are the one who avoided discussing monetary policies, The Fed, and everything specific I brought up…is your mind that baked that you can’t recall and read previous comments???

  5. Skrunklesthepig on

    What is more pathetic is your inability to gleam any relationship with history and those issues I brought forth regarding what is occurring today…as well as your avoidance in dealing with the topic and terms that you tried to pretend you had knowledge of…goodbye liliputian.

  6. I think it’s hilarious that invoking Hitler and Naziism is the favorite last resort of paranoids of all political stripes, even though it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to with our country, our politics or this century. Pathetic.

  7. Skrunklesthepig on

    Profound corruption that is obvious, is not something decent people sit idle about sheep. You sound like a perfect little brown shirt from the Hitler youth brigade.

  8. Skrunklesthepig on

    As mentioned, you don’t know squat so you go off on a personal rant….again, dazzle us with your acumen on how, if at all, fractional reserve banking has made the US dollar better…or worse. “Posse comitatus”? Are you a child or just someone with a very low IQ and a very low information level as well? You may have the last word…

  9. Does the Posse Comitatus pay you for these lunatic rants, or are you free-lancing?

  10. People are corrupt, not governments, and some always will be, regardless of governmental form – aristocratic, authoritarian, democratic, whatever. No? Please name a place that is without corruption. Perhaps the church? Hahahahah!

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