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Bush Holdover Unanimously Confirmed To 
Head U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

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Bush Holdover Michelle Leonhart Unanimously Confirmed To Head U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

 Tue, 04 Jan 2011 22:42:48  By: Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

 The U.S. Senate has confirmed Michelle Leonhart
 by unanimous consent to head the United States
 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Miss
 Leonhart had served as interim director of the
 agency since November 2007. President Barack
 Obama had nominated Leonhart in February to serve
 as the agency’s director.

 Numerous drug policy reform organizations,
 including NORML, had opposed Leonhart’s
 confirmation – arguing that her actions as
 interim DEA administrator were contrary to the
 Obama administration’s pledge to allow science,
 rather than rhetoric and ideology, guide public

 For example, Ms. Leonhart oversaw dozens of
 federal raids on medical marijuana providers and
 producers. These actions took place in states
 that have enacted laws allowing for the use and
 distribution of marijuana for medical purposes,
and are inconsistent with an October 19, 2009

 Department of Justice memo recommending federal
 officials no longer "focus Š resources Š on
 individuals whose actions are in clear and
 unambiguous compliance with existing state laws
 providing for the medical use of marijuana."

Miss Leonhart also blocked scientific research
 that sought to better identify and quantify
 marijuana’s medicinal properties and efficacy. In
 particular, Ms. Leonhart neglected to reply to an
eight-year-old petition calling for
 administrative hearings regarding the
 rescheduling marijuana for medical use. Such
 hearings were called for in 2009 by the American
 Medical Association, which resolved "that
 marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I
 controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of
 facilitating the conduct of clinical research and
 development of cannabinoid-based medicines."

 Moreover, in January 2009, Ms. Leonhart refused
 to issue a license to the University of
 Massachusetts for the purpose of cultivating
 marijuana for FDA-approved research, despite a
 DEA administrative law judge’s ruling that it
 would be "in the public interest" to grant this

 Finally, Ms. Leonhart has exhibited questionable
 judgment when speaking about the subject of
 escalating drug war violence in Mexico. In 2009,
 she described this border violence – which is
responsible for over 31,000 deaths since December
 2006 – as a sign of the "success" of her agency’s
 anti-drug strategies.

 Commenting on Ms. Leonhart’s confirmation, NORML
 Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, "Ms.
 Leonhart’s actions and ambitions are incompatible
 with state law, public opinion, and with the
 policies of this administration. It is unlikely
 that we will see any serious change in direction
 of the DEA under Ms. Leonhart’s leadership."
 In December, Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl had
 placed a hold on Ms. Leonhart’s nomination.
 Senator Kohl dropped his hold on December 22, and
 the Senate unanimously confirmed Leonhart’s
nomination the following day.