Marijuana Policy Project petition: Fire DEA head critical of Obama's pot comments
Last week, Denver-based Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert called President Obama's comments suggesting that marijuana may be less harmful than alcohol "refreshing." But his group, a major backer of Colorado's Amendment 64, is considerably less impressed by statements attributed to Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart, who's widely perceived as an obstacle to progressive pot policy -- so much so that the MPP has launched a petition calling for the President to fire her. Details, videos and more below.
Video and more below.
As noted by Dan Riffle, the MPP's director of federal policies, Leonhart made headlines in 2012 after an exchange with Colorado Representative Jared Polis. Under questioning from Polis during a Congressional hearing, Leonhart refused to say that heroin was worse than cannabis.
Here's a video of their conversation.
Then, last week, the Boston Herald quoted Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson as saying that during an appearance at a Major Counties Sheriffs' Association meeting, Leonhart was highly critical of comments Obama made about marijuana in a recent interview with the New Yorker.
"She's frustrated for the same reasons we are," Hodgson told the paper. "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."
Oh yeah: Polis was the driving force behind the hemp flag's Capitol appearance. Hemp, of course, lacks sufficient amounts of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana to get users high.
Polis holding the hemp flag.
The sheriffs responded to Leonhart's comments with a standing ovation, Hodgson told the Herald. But Riffle isn't cheering.
"I think it's normal to expect career drug warriors, folks who've been in the DEA for twenty or thirty years, to be upset about the fact that marijuana is become legal in a number of states," he says. "But at the end of the day, they're employees of the administration. In fact, Leonhart is an appointee of the administration, which has said for a long time that it wants science and the scientific process to inform its decisions. And she's very clearly violating that pledge by refusing to recognize very clear scientific evidence."
Regarding the question of whether marijuana is more harmful to the individual user than alcohol, Riffle points out that even former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who heads Project SAM, an anti-marijuana-legalization organization launched in Colorado circa January 2013, agreed with Obama's assessment during a recent appearance on CNN.
Here's that clip. Kennedy's statement about the relative risks of marijuana and alcohol come at about the six minute mark, after he's spent a good deal of time arguing that cannabis sales should remain against the law.
In Riffle's opinion, Leonhart's comments to the sheriff's organization undercuts the administration in ways the President cannot allow to stand.
"Can you imagine an employee of a private-sector company publicly and openly criticizing the CEO of the company?" he asks. "They'd be fired immediately. And there's no reason why we should treat a government official any differently."
Hence, the petition calling for her ouster.
Continue for more about the call to fire DEA head Michele Leonhart, including the complete Marijuana Policy Project petition.