The Obama Administration announced earlier last week that its leading enforcer of the War on Drugs, Michele Leonhart, would be stepping down due to her willingness to turn a blind eye to DEA agents accepting bribes from drug cartels and engaging in wild orgies with prostitutes. Now marijuana activists across the United States are taking the opportunity to pressure the Justice Department for a new, more sensible regime.
Although it appears that even President Obama has no idea who he will select as the next head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the consensus is that the position will be given to an individual with progressive politics—one who, unlike Leonhart, will not constantly battle the White House in regards to its position on legal marijuana states or sentencing reform. It is for this reason that soldiers fighting to end the drug war are preparing to launch a full-scale campaign in hopes of pressuring the Obama Administration to hire a DEA administrator who at least supports the concept of states’ rights, while envisioning a complete overhaul of the agency’s duties to better serve the greater good of a collective America.
To make this happen, drug policy groups, like the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, are reportedly sending lobbyists into the political jungle to mingle with officials on Capitol Hill, as well as the White House. The goal is to finally put an end to the Nixon-esque attitudes perpetrated by Leonhart for the past 35 years and perhaps employ a new agency leader who has a different approach to the drug war.
It is conceivable that the next head of the Drug Enforcement Administration could help facilitate the legalization of marijuana on a national level—or at least work to downgrade its current Schedule I classification to a Schedule II. But ultimately, before selecting Leonhart’s successor, advocates believe that a serious discussion over drug policy needs to happen.
Although unlikely, some believe the time has come to consider the elimination of the Drug Enforcement Administration altogether and that Leonhart’s exit could be the catalyst for the Obama Administration to redefine the agency’s role in our federal government.
“The DEA is a weird agency in that it both enforces the law by investigating illegal drug manufacturing and distribution, and helps determine the law by, for example, determining drug schedules, licensing researchers, and determining who can produce drugs for research,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project recently told Forbes. “There’s a troubling inherent conflict there, and I think we have to pick one of the other.”
Unfortunately, the most likely scenario is that the Obama Administration will look no further than DEA headquarters to replace Leonhart, which could set the United States up for much of the same drug war shenanigans it has endured since the 1980s. In fact, some federal officials argue that marijuana activists should not expect the next leader of the DEA to subscribe to a different plan of attack and that it is not realistic to believe a new administrator will swoop in and, all of a sudden, stop enforcing the nation’s pot laws.
“Maybe it’s a bad example because I’m reluctant to say anything nice about the IRS, but we beat up on the IRS all the time and the IRS is only administering and enforcing the laws passed by Congress,” Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, told BuzzFeed News.
While it is true that an act of Congress is needed to make significant changes to the federal policies surrounding marijuana, a new DEA administrator, perhaps one with experience in public health, could work with the Justice Department and the White House in the development of a plan to shift the role of the agency from drug enforcement to reinforcing the need for wide scale reform. In turn, instead of conducting shakedowns against the medical marijuana community, the new regime of the DEA could help facilitate cannabis research and work towards building a solid foundation which to base an upgraded version of the Controlled Substances Act.
After all, marijuana advocates believe that revamping the way the DEA operates, by transitioning the agency from law enforcement to public health, may be the only way the agency can maintain longevity.
“Within the next 10 years, I see massive drug policy reform and therefore really an end to the DEA,” said Neill Franklin from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition in a recent interview with Time Magazine. “For most part, the DEA exists because they’re enforcing prohibition. I believe we’re moving away from prohibition and more toward health.”
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