DEA Chief Criticizes Obama Marijuana Remarks, But Faces Backlash

Criticism is mounting over reported remarks last week of DEA chief Michele Leonhart in a speech to the Major Counties Sheriffs Association. Leonhart criticized her boss, President Obama, for acknowledging in a recent interview that marijuana is not more dangerous than alcohol and that the experiments with marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington were "important."

Precisely what Leonhart told the gathered sheriffs is unclear because no media were allowed in the room, but the anti-legalization sheriffs ate it up, according to the Boston Herald, which spoke with some of them.

"She's frustrated for the same reasons we are," Bristol County (MA) Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said. "She said she felt the administration didn't understand the science enough to make those statements. She was particularly frustrated with the fact that, according to her, the White House participated in a softball game with a pro-legalization group... But she said her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA was when she learned they'd flown a hemp flag over the Capitol on July 4. The sheriffs were all shocked. This is the first time in 28 years I've ever heard anyone in her position be this candid."

The hemp flag was flown at the request of Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D), a strong marijuana reform supporter.

Kern County (CA) Sheriff Donny Youngblood, head of the sheriffs' group, said Leonhart criticized Obama for making what he described as "irresponsible" remarks that were "a big slap in the face" to police officers who lost their lives prosecuting the drug war.

"This is a woman who has spent 33 years of her life fighting drug abuse in the DEA, her entire life. To have the president of the United States publicly say marijuana was a bad habit like alcohol was appalling to everyone in that room," Youngblood said. "I think the way that she felt was that it was a betrayal of what she does for the American people in enforcing our drug laws... She got a standing ovation."

Hodgson said sheriffs see marijuana as "gateway drug" (Editor's Note: Despite the notion having been repeatedly debunked) and that political leaders should be preventing drug use, not playing down its dangers and providing kids with excuses.

"The last person we need saying this to kids is the president of the United States," Hodgson said.

While Leonhart's remarks played well with law enforcement officials with a vested interest in maintaining the prohibitionist status quo, they didn't sit nearly as well with drug reformers.

"Whether Ms. Leonhart is ignorant of the facts or intentionally disregarding them, she is clearly unfit for her current position," said Dan Riffle, Marijuana Policy Project director of federal policies. "By any objective measure, marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and society. It is irresponsible and unacceptable for a government official charged with enforcing our drug laws to deny the facts surrounding the nation's two most popular recreational drugs.

The group has launched a petition calling on the president to fire Leonhart and replace her with someone who will base decisions on science and evidence instead of politics and ideology.

"The DEA administrator's continued refusal to recognize marijuana's relative safety compared to alcohol and other drugs flies in the face of the president's commitment to prioritizing science over ideology and politics," Riffle said. "She is neglecting the basic obligations of her job and fundamentally undermining her employer's mission. This would be grounds for termination in the private sector, and the consequences for Ms. Leonhart should be no different."

The petition calls for Leonhart to be replaced by "someone who will uphold [President Obama's] mandate that administration decisions be guided by science instead of ideology and politics."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Love it!

This is great, one of the biggest prohibitionists in the world is finally getting called out on the carpet over it! Maybe Leonhart should resign, please start a petition for her removal! I'm an administrator on the Facebook page New Yorkers Against Prohibition and "we the people" want her out of Washington! started one, there's a link in the article

She should move to some place like Malaysia or Singapore where they still appreciate her bigoted ways. 

Legalizing weed

There is already a petition on please go sign it asap. There are a few petitions started on that site on this subject. So feel free to sign all of them and pass the word.

Get her out of there!

This woman should be out of her position. For too long has there been this "War on Drugs" and it needs to end. People with a mindset that something is "evil" or "immoral" because they think it is, should really be in no position of power. If you are going to overlook science and facts, then you are not doing the progression of humankind any good. 


The "laws" should not be proactive . Who's civil rights are being violated. Anyone arrested for using any drug whether its caffeine ( yes that is a drug ) alcohol , "pot" or anything else that does not violate another's constitutional rights should NOT be violated by imprisonment . The United States are under attack by FASCIST and a prison system that makes a profit by locking us up.

Michele Leonhardt Should Resign from DEA

Since hemp-hater Michele Leonhardt is bitching about her job so much, she should do herself and the rest of the country a favor by quitting.  Why waste people’s time by forcing the President’s hand? 

Leonhardt hasn’t succeeded at anything.  She’s proven to the world at a Senate hearing that she knows virtually nothing about drugs.  She objectifies social problems by conflating the problems with drugs, and then she claims all that’s needed is to eliminate drugs and the problem is solved.  It never happens.  This is bureaucratic incompetence at its worst.  She’s an embarrassment to the country.  When a bureaucrat believes her own hype, it’s time to go, no matter how useful she’s been in making the DEA look bad.

marijuana legalization

Michele Leonhardt needs to be replaced now. Have her go to the cancer centers and see how marijuana helps them with there pain suffering vomiting after radiation treatments.and why do you think most law enforcement want it keep illegal that's where the get most of the federal monies. If we could save that money, money we could save prosecution and imprisonment on marijuana and then tax IT ,we could help elderly with meds and help less fortunate people on home heating food.

The Cretin In Charge

Get this moron out of the DEA and then defund the useless agency.

Fire 'em All

they terrorize doctors and researchers and never go after the big traffickers because they prefer numbers and easy. They do more harm than good. Replace the DEA with an agency that makes sense.

Obama's Fault

Really, what else could one expect when Obama re-appointed Bush holdover Leonhart? Her antediluvian views were well known well before he took office.  This is what you get electing Democrats and expecting change; more of the same--not just as regards cannabis but across the entire policy spectrum.  We demand better choices.

drug war

sheriff donny youngblood: it is you and your support of the drug war that are responsible for the death of those dea agents and all other law enforcement folks who lost their life in support of the drug war....the drug war was wrong and should not have been waged in the first should have been treated a as a medical problem...the hard drug user should have been in some sort of treatment program ....while dealers in hard drug incarcerated...but to declare a war means that all who are confronted would be in a situation that puts life in jeopardy...stop the drug war here in the states and let mexico and all of the rest of the countries involved in drugs take care of their own affairs....

Her own agents don't think mch of her

Reformers should spend some time reading at DEAWatch. It's a site for present and past agents to sound off. They usually do...with some of the most misogynistic, bigoted and prejudicial remarks ever made in a public forum by putative 'public servants'. So much so you might want to have some eyewash handy. It's that bad.

They don't think much of Leonhart either. Not much at all...

Oh, and by the way

This is what Obama gets for making as if he has no control over Haag and her fascists  and what they've done to the dispensaries in CA. Make like you have no control, and what are supposedly your animals will be encouraged slip the leash. Even becoming bold enough to the point of growling at their master.

When a dog does that, you set it straight...or put it down. With a Human bureaucracy, the latter doesn't economically and politically by firing the erring employee. Obama has to decide who's going to be President, him, or her.

getting a real clue

it's hard too believe in this day and age we would have anyone who wants too keep the lies going and keep putting the pharmies out on the street--i'm sure big pharm. is gonna takeing a beating but get her OUTTA there we need some one who can "READ',and "UNDERSTAND",just what science really has too say--it's hard too believe it was ever made illegal--just think of all the "PEOPLE",that are goverment let die from lack of a plant that was put on this earth for a reason --time too get it over--legalize,and help put our schools and our future back where they need too b!!!!

really sad

It is always about getting money for their faction. It is sad when they are fighting what the majority of the country approves of. Proof they care more about money than the people they where hired to represent. Some prison owners have to be freaking out thinking about all of the income they are about to lose.

end the DEA by adding the other d spelling DEAD

I also think the DEA such be ended  , There fascism and death courts  are forever a scorn  along with the IRS and  DOR  CIA  HLS  the federal government in general 

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