Following the recent hookers and blow scandal which tarnished the Drug Enforcement Administration, it was just announced by Attorney General Eric Holder that head of the DEA Michele Leonhart will retire next month. The latest scandal is just the most prominent of a long series of scandals, most of which were compiled in this report from the Drug Policy Alliance. The Drug Policy Alliance had an inside scoop on Leonhart’s pending departure, having dropped this press release just hours before. Among the factors that may have played a part in Leonhart’s “retirement” which the DPA cited:
- The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General currently has six open investigations into numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data to both spy on virtually all Americans and to systematically fabricate evidence, and controversial uses of confidential informants.
- A series of recent investigations by USA Today found that the DEA has been tracking billions of U.S. phone calls without warrants or even suspicion of wrong-doing, an operation copied by the NSA and other agencies after 9/11. The DEA built the modern surveillance state.
- DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart herself has been at the center of several scandals, including the House of Death scandal in which the DEA may have turned a blind eye to torture and murder, and the Andrew Chambers scandal, in which the DEA rehired a confidential informant with a history of lying.
- DEA conflicts with Obama administration policy. Last year, Leonhart publicly rebuked President Obama for admitting 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 this week when it seized seeds bound for a Kentucky hemp research program that was approved by Congress. Then Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the incident “an outrage” and the Kentucky Agriculture Department sued the DEA.
- The DEA’s refusal to acknowledge science. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart has on several occasions ignored science and overruled the DEA’s own administrative law judges on medical issues relating to marijuana. In a bizarre 2012 debate with members of Congress Leonhart refused repeatedly to acknowledge that marijuana is safer than cocaine and heroin.
While the announcement is a victory for anti-Drug War activists (and anyone in favor of a rational, ethical and effective drug policy based on facts), we can only hope that the new DEA head is not of the same mindset as Leonhart or worse.