Recently DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart attended a DEA Oversight Judiciary Subcommittee hearing regarding the DEA’s priorities. This is most likely a result of multiple recent episodes of DEA malfeasance. Leonhart was bombarded with questions regarding the Daniel Chong forgotten detainment scandal, the Columbian prostitution scandal, and the newly discovered Fast and Furious weapons smuggling scandal, but listen to the revealing exchange as she attempted to sidestep the inquiries of Jared Polis (D-Colo.):
Leonhart attempted to dodge Congressman Polis’ questions regarding the addictive qualities and health benefits of marijuana versus other drugs, prescription and illicit, in order to prevent herself from indirectly endorsing marijuana use. Jared Polis asked the DEA administrator at the hearing, “Is crack worse for a person than marijuana? … Is methamphetamine worse? … Is heroin worse?” Leonhart’s evasive answers weren’t good enough for Polis, who responded with a hurried: “Yes, no, or I don’t know… You should know this as the chief administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency… It’s a very straight forward question.”
Prior to the demands of Congressman Polis, Leonhart had another string of tough questions from Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.):
Cohen opens up the questioning by asking for the budget of the DEA, and Leonhart attempts to stumble through her reference documents in order to answer his question. Cohen seems to view this as an attempt to waste his 5 minute time limit, and pulls an estimation of about 2 billion dollars a year from her. Cohen then continues to ask what the DEA has set as the priorities of drug use reduction. Leonhart answers with prescription drugs being their primary concern, but any drug thereafter is, presumably, considered second because the “organizations we are going after are poly-drug,” which Cohen counters with an accusation that the DEA is not focusing on drug use reduction, but on the crime syndicates– which, of course, is not the intended focus of the DEA.
The Tennessee congressman then launches a semi-hypothetical question about a Navy Seal suffering from terminal cancer, “Have you ever seen a person who had cancer and used marijuana to help them eat or to relieve their condition– someone suffering from terminal cancer? And if you had, and I have, and seen that it helps them with their appetite and makes them smile, would you agree that it has some benefit to society?” and Leonhart actually answered: “I think that’s between him and his doctor.” Cohen immediately calls Leonhart out by asking why the DEA has made that decision their business if it’s between him and his doctor.
I expect to see Leonhart return not too long from now for another hearing, as many members of the subcommittee requested her return or for future meetings outside of the hearing to take place. Leonhart successfully avoided actually answering many questions throughout the hour-and- a-half hearing, but the blowback from the hearing and from her responses to these questions hasn’t helped the DEA’s already tarnished image.