Michele Leonhart Resigns DEA Marijuana

The DEA head, who criticized President Obama for saying marijuana is safer than alcohol, announced that she will be resigning from the agency she has led since 2007. Michele Leonhart’s announcement comes amid a scandal involving DEA agents in Colombia participating in sex parties provided by drug cartels. Just last week, the House Oversight Committee expressed “no confidence” in the DEA administrator by issuing the following:

House Oversight Committee Expresses No Confidence In DEA Administrator Leonhart

April 15, 2015 WASHINGTON— Today, after listening to testimony during yesterday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on “DOJ IG: Handling of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Allegations,” Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) joined with fellow committee Members in expressing no confidence in DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

“After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA, Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive “good old boy” culture that exists throughout the agency. From her testimony, it is clear that she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position . Ms. Leonhart has lost the confidence of this Committee to initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency.”

Members joining the statement include:

Rep. Amash (R-MI), Rep. Boyle (D-PA), Rep. Carter (R-GA), Rep. Connolly (D-VA), Rep. DeSaulnier (D-CA), Rep. Duncan (R-TN), Rep. Farenthold (R-TX), Rep. Hice (R-GA), Rep. Kelly (D-IL), Rep. Lawrence (D-MI), Rep. Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Rep. Lynch (D-MA), Rep. Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Meadows (R-NC), Rep. Mulvaney (R-SC), Rep. Norton (D-D.C.), Rep. Palmer (R-AL), Rep. Plaskett (D-VI), Rep. Walberg (D-MI), Rep. Welch (D-VT)

(Link to the document)


For historical perspective, Leonhart, with 35 years at the DEA, was nominated to the top drug enforcement post by George W. Bush. She was renominated by President Obama in 2010. During her tenure at the DEA, Michele Leonhart has made her opposition to marijuana legalization loud and clear. Some highlights of her anti-marijuana career:

  • After Obama stated that he felt marijuana was safer than alcohol, she reportedly criticized him not understanding the science and playing a “softball game with pro-legalization” groups.
  • When a industrial hemp flag was flown over the nation’s capital, she is quoted as saying that was the “lowest day of her 33 years in law enforcement”.
  • In a DEA letter denying a petition to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana, Leonhart stated marijuana “has a high potential for abuse,” “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and “lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” (See the letter here: DEA-Letter-Denying-Reclassification-July-8-2011)
  • Opposed states’ right to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana
  • Resisted calls to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana use and distribution
  • Refused to say crack, methamphetamine, heroine are worse than marijuana in a congressional hearing
  • Said about the drug cartels mass killings and, particularly, targeting children: “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs,” said Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The cartels “are like caged animals, attacking one another,” she added.

Check out this video of a congressional hearing where she is being questioned about marijuana vs a host of REAL drugs like crack, meth, heroine, prescription, etc.  Her refusal or inability to give an honest straight-forward answer about marijuana shows she was too bound by her out-dated ideology to effectively and sensibly run the DEA in an era of science.


Pro-legalization Democrats are already saying President Obama should nominate someone who is supportive of a change in marijuana policy at the DEA.

“I encourage the president to use this as an opportunity to fill this important role with someone who understands the outdated federal approach to marijuana isn’t working,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon. He added: “The American public has moved on. Most now feel marijuana should be legalized.”

Those opposed are obviously calling for another Leonhart for the DEA’s top job.

The departure of an anti-marijuana ideologue offers a chance for a reboot at the DEA with regards to its approach to marijuana. President Obama can now appoint someone who is better aligned with his own views that marijuana should be treated more as a public health issue than a criminal one. A person of science and an open mind to allow the country to have an honest discussion about cannabis and its potential benefits, as well as treatment for those who may need it.

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