drug enforcement agency dea
Ending Marijuana Prohibition

Drug Policy Alliance Places Mock DEA “We’re Hiring” Ad In Roll Call

drug enforcement agency dea
(via Wikipedia.com)

The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs, has placed a mock “Help Wanted” ad in Roll Call seeking a new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to “prolong the failed war on drugs.” Primary areas of job responsibility include “Mass Incarceration,” “Police State Tactics,” “Obstruction of Science,” “Subverting Democracy” and “Undermining Human Rights.” The ad comes in the wake of numerous DEA scandals and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart’s recent announcement she will resign sometime in May.

“Drug prohibition, like alcohol Prohibition, breeds crime, corruption, and violence – and creates a situation where law enforcement officers must risk their lives in a fight that can’t be won,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s time to reform not just the DEA but broader U.S. and global drug policy. The optimal drug policy would reduce the role of criminalization and the criminal justice system in drug control to the greatest extent possible, while protecting public safety and health.”

The DEA has existed for more than forty years but little attention has been given to the role the agency has played in fueling mass incarceration, racial disparities, the surveillance state, and other drug war problems. Congress has rarely scrutinized the agency, its actions or its budget, instead showing remarkable deference to the DEA’s administrators. That has started to change recently, and Leonhart’s departure is seen as an opportunity to appoint someone who will overhaul the agency and support reform.

The Drug Policy Alliance recently released a new issue brief, The Scandal-Ridden DEA: Everything You Need to Know. The brief covers numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the inappropriate use of NSA resources to spy on U.S. citizens and the use of fabricated evidence to cover it up, the warrantless tracking of billions of U.S. phone calls, and the misuse of confidential informants.

The brief notes that the traditional U.S. drug policy goal of using undercover work, arrests, prosecutions, incarceration, interdiction and source-country eradication to try to make America “drug-free” has failed to substantially reduce drug use or drug-related harms. It instead has created problems of its own – broken families, increased poverty, racial disparities, wasted tax dollars, prison overcrowding and eroded civil liberties.

The case has been made for eliminating the DEA with its regulatory and scheduling functions shifted to a health agency and its agents and other resources shifted to various Justice Department organized crime task forces. Three presidential administrations have conducted reviews of whether it would be more efficient and better for public safety to merge the DEA with the FBI (Carter, Reagan, and Clinton), but Congress has never seriously explored the issue.

Even as U.S. states, Congress, and the Obama Administration move forward with marijuana legalization, sentencing reform, and other drug policy reforms, the DEA has fought hard to preserve the failed policies of the past. Last year, Leonhartpublicly rebuked President Obama for saying that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuana even in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and spoke out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress that the Obama administration is supporting.

Last May, the DEA created a political firestorm when it seized seeds bound for a Kentucky hemp research program that was approved by Congress. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the incident “an outrage,” the Kentucky Agriculture Department sued the DEA, and the agency was forced to back down.

The DEA also has a long history of obstructing scientific research and refusing to acknowledge established science, as chronicled in a report by DPA and MAPS last year, The DEA: Four Decades of Impeding and Rejecting Science.  DEA administrators, including Leonhart, have on several occasions ignored research and overruled the DEA’s own administrative law judges on the medical uses of marijuana and MDMA. In a bizarre 2012 debate with members of Congress Leonhart refused repeatedly to acknowledge that marijuana is safer than cocaine and heroin.

In a recent report the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General found that the DEA withheld information and obstructed investigations. In a hearing last week senators grilled the DEA for failing to provide information and answer basic questions. “It’s been now eight months — I still don’t have a response from DEA to these questions,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said. “When we don’t get responses to our letters, that colors our view of the agency — particularly when we’re writing about a constituent who suffered from a real lapse in process,” Senator Diane Feinstein said.

The Drug Policy Alliance is launching an online campaign to raise awareness of the damage the agency is causing, releasing a series of reports on the agency’s failure and malfeasance, and working with members of Congress to cut the agency’s budget and reduce its power.

Last year Congress passed a spending limitation amendment prohibiting the DEA from undermining state marijuana laws. It was signed into law by President Obama, but expires later this year. The U.S. House also approved two amendments prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp laws. An amendment to shift $5 million from the agency to a rape kit testing program passed overwhelmingly. Numerous hearings have already been held this year scrutinizing the agency. Reformers say more amendments, bills, and hearings are on the way.

“Our fight is not with DEA agents but with their leaders who have profoundly politicized the agency and opposed sensible reforms,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “As states legalize marijuana, reform sentencing, and treat drug use more as a health issue and less as a criminal justice issue the DEA must change with the times.”

For more background, including DPA’s reports, press releases, op-eds and news articles, see: drugpolicy.org/DEA

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  • newageblues

    “Our fight is not with DEA agents but with their leaders who have profoundly politicized the agency and opposed sensible reforms,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance”.

    Fair enough, national drug reform groups don’t need to pick fights with rank and file drug warriors. But personally, I think anyone who is willing to arrest people for marijuana has no moral compass. If they use alcohol themselves, they are pathetic hypocrites. If they use alcohol, they also need to understand that ‘hard’ drugs are not so different from alcohol that people who use them can be treated in a completely opposite manner from how alcohol users are treated. Alcohol use at the center of our culture, alcohol abusers and problem bars all over the place, while ‘hard’ drug users who aren’t rich have no chance of a decent life. It’s just not fair, and not acceptable, and drug warriors need to think that through..

    • AAMCO

      second that, they are part of the problem

    • The mandate of the DEA is to support Drug Prohibition.

      • newageblues

        Well, then maybe they should suggest to Congress that it needs to be consistent and outlaw tobacco and alcohol.

        • Congress can’t outlaw alcohol. The Prohibition Amendment has been repealed. Which reminds me….

          • newageblues

            Yeah, I know what it reminds you of, the pre-New Deal Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution, under which a constitutional amendment was needed to allow the feds to ban a substance. But under current interpretation, I don’t see why they couldn’t ban them. If the DEa’s mandate is to support drug prohibition, they might as well follow their mandate consistently.

    • If you look at it objectively alcohol is one of the hardest drugs there is.

  • HellNo

    The DEA is a joke. The Cartels took over Colombia on their watch. The Cartels took over Mexico on their watch. Street gangs took over our urban neighborhoods on their watch. Now the Cartels are in America, and the DEA is busy busting street- corner dealers selling dime bags.
    The new DEA Administrator should drive a clown car and wear a big, red nose.

    • Lawrence Goodwin

      No joke, the country is spelled “Colombia,” nor should one need to further explain that physical distance is always farther.

  • Dave_K

    Prohibition results in a total lack of control. Colorado does not have a marijuana problem. A recent poll suggested that 62% of those in Colorado continue to believe that they made the right decision. Since the first retail marijuana stores opened on January 1st, 2014, the state of Colorado has benefitted from a decrease in crime rates, a decrease in traffic fatalities, an increase in tax revenue and economic output from retail marijuana sales, an increase in jobs, a decrease in DUI fatalities, and their actions have reduced deaths from opiate overdoses there. Colorado’s state economy is reported to be the fastest growing in the nation. Last year they collected close to 70 million dollars in medical and recreational taxes from legal, regulated marijuana. They plan to use this for their schools and to repair their failing infrastructure. In Arizona people like Kimberly Yee, John Kavanaugh, and Andy Biggs have made sure that our students receive the lowest per pupil funding in the nation. Despite concerns before the passage of the initiative, not a single zombie has been seen piloting planes out of Denver’s airports nor are they seen driving their buses.

    Legislators and prosecutors advocate that we continue a broken and failed system that benefits only the Mexican drug cartels and our Right Wing Nut Jobs who Police for Profit from the citizens of Arizona. This approach to the “marijuana problem” has resulted in cheaper drugs, more potent drugs, and easier access for our children than when we began the War on Drugs but many politicians who are highly invested in private prisons have prospered. Under the current system marijuana became our number one cash crop, surpassing both wheat and corn combined. In 1937 Harry Anslinger (our first drug czar) testified before congress that 100,000 people had used marijuana just before the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. Today it is estimated that 100,000,000 of our citizens, including our last three presidents have used it. Marijuana prohibition didn’t lower use but rather has resulted in a thousandfold increase in its use. Drug warriors try their best to spin this into a win in the War on Drugs. As taxpayers, we paid between 1 and 1.5 TRILLION dollars to have this done to us!

  • The optimal policy is no policy.

    Every tax, every regulation comes with it an army of bureaucrats and behind that an army (with guns) of enforcers.

    No more taxed or regulated than tomatoes.

    • newageblues

      No age limit?

      • For 20 or 30 years heroin was an over the counter medicine. Age limits just encourage police to make war on children.

        Every tax, every regulation comes with it an army of bureaucrats and behind that an army (with guns) of enforcers.

        Don’t give them (police) any excuses.

  • Sheree L

    Thanks for responding… I found the article in cancer.gov…I have been through cancer myself… Doing cannabis candy to repair the damage from the radiation treatments. So far I’m starting to feel amazing compared to where I was before the cannabis candy. Another miracle I’ve been a witness to is the effects of the Rick Simpson oil recipe has hassle ad on a loved one… Loved one was vomiting for days due to the traditional cancer treatments. Started giving the oil on Saturday and 0 vomiting since then It’s truly a miracle… So glad to find a person who feels as strongly as I do about Cannabis and the benefits it gives to many suffering from a disease

    • been there

      Right on, right on. Keep on keeping on. Best wishes in your efforts!