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Obama Nominee to Lead DEA Scheduled for Confirmation Hearing Tomorrow
Nomination of Michele Leonhart, a Bush Administration Holdover, Is Fiercely Opposed by Drug Policy Reform Community, Others
WASHINGTON - November 16 - The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing tomorrow for Michele Leonhart to serve as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, a post Leonhart has held on an interim basis for two years after serving as deputy administrator under the Bush administration from 2003 to 2007.
During her tenure, Leonhart has presided over hundreds of paramilitary DEA raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where medical marijuana is legal. Even after the Department of Justice, in an October 2009 memo, instructed federal prosecutors to no longer target medical marijuana providers "whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with state laws," the DEA under Leonhart's leadership has continued to stage raids on individuals operating under state law.
In July, DEA agents flouted a pioneering Mendocino County (CA) ordinance to regulate medical marijuana cultivation by raiding the very first grower to register with the sheriff. Joy Greenfield, 68, had paid more than $1,000 for a permit to cultivate 99 plants in a collective garden that had been inspected and approved by a local sheriff. Informed that Greenfield had the support of the sheriff, the DEA agent in charge responded by saying, "I don't care what the sheriff says."
"During Ms. Leonhart's confirmation hearing, I hope senators ask how she plans to engage with local authorities in the growing number of states where medical marijuana is legal," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "In order to comply with the Justice Department's directive, the DEA needs to adopt a policy whereby agents consult with local law enforcement to determine whether someone is in compliance with local laws - before they raid and seize private property."
Leonhart's nomination is opposed by the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and its California chapter, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the 10th Amendment Center, and Jane Hamsher, the founder and publisher of the progressive political blog Firedoglake.