Zealots, hired guns, good Germans—call them what you will, but it would be hard to call the men and women of the Drug Enforcement Administration dummies.
The DEA does not hire just anyone; its agents are the out-performers and overachievers among law enforcement—maybe not quite FBI or CIA material, but still head-and-shoulders above the cops spending careers doing traffic stops in small towns.
All this to say, the DEA is aware of science and it is aware of data. It cannot preach ignorance. But it has a job to do in regard to enforcing federal marijuana law—which is why the DEA knowingly and willingly lies about the (lack of) harm posed by the drug, according to a former woman who cops to spreading misinformation for the agency’s benefit.
Angela Bacca of Illegally Healed brings us details from a talk given by Belita Nelson at a recent conference in Denver.
Nelson, a former debate teacher at a high school in Plano, Texas, says she was hired by the DEA in 1998 and became a public face for the agency until 2004, happily going on talk shows as the agency’s able and willing “chief propagandist,” as she has described it.
(In contemporary media reports from the late 1990s, Nelson is described as the founder of a drug-awareness nonprofit, on whose behalf she appeared on Oprah and Nightline and other outlets. Her nonprofit’s exact link to the DEA is unclear, and her LinkedIn profile makes no mention of a DEA role, but for the sake of the story, let’s move on and listen to what she has to say.)
Very early on in her career, Nelson received her marching orders in regard to cannabis—and a telling lesson on DEA dogma.
“Marijuana is safe, we know it is safe,” Nelson recalled her “DEA education coordinator, Paul Villaescusa,” telling her, according to Illegally Healed. But “[i]t’s our cash cow and we will never give up.”
It wasn’t long before her loyalty was put to the test when a friend of Nelson’s developed cancer. With her friend wasting away during chemotherapy—a former football player, he had withered from 340 pounds to 140 pounds and could neither sleep nor eat—Nelson went to her teenage son to see if he could find her some marijuana to give to her friend.
What followed was the old familiar script: the weed worked, and Nelson became an immediate acolyte, going as far as growing “the cannabis herself so that she knew it was safe,” according to Illegally Healed.
This incongruous arrangement lasted until 2004, when Nelson resigned from the agency during a dispute following an investigation into a heroin epidemic.
Opiate addicts were finding success getting off junk by using marijuana—and rather than cop to the fact, the agency maintained its hard line.
So she quit—and she also rejected the DEA’s offer of a handsome payout in order to keep quiet about what she saw, she claims.
“You know this is safe and you are keeping it from people who are sick!” she reportedly told her superiors, who offered her as much as “$20,000 a month” to stay quiet, she claims. “I am not taking your money, and you better worry about what I am going to say!”
The DEA doesn’t appear to be publicly worrying too much.
Nelson’s work these days is as a cannabis advocate, and the feds don’t appear to be suppressing her—or veering from their “marijuana is bad” course.
This summer, the DEA rejected a petition to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act—citing, disingenuously, a lack of research on the subject.
If you believe Nelson, this is no surprise—and it will never change.
“If you think the DEA are the good guys, they are not,” Nelson said. “They are really not. We are talking corruption on steroids.” [Editor’s Note: No duh.]
You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.