Obama’s DEA Chief Refuses To Support Proposed Drug Reforms | The Fix
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Obama’s DEA Chief Refuses To Support Proposed Drug Reforms

Bush holdover Michele Leonhart has stubbornly rebuffed her new boss over the changing realities of the War on Drugs.


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By Shawn Dwyer


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President Obama’s top drug enforcement officer, Michele Leonhart, has caused waves once again after refusing to support a proposed Senate bill to lower the length of mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug crimes.

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration made her comments in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week in response to a question posed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) about the role of mandatory minimums in federal drug cases.

"Having been in law enforcement as an agent for 33 years, [and] a Baltimore City police officer before that, I can tell you that for me and for the agents that work for DEA, mandatory minimums have been very important to our investigations," Leonhart said. "We depend on those as a way to ensure that the right sentences are going to the...level of violator we are going after."

Her refusal to back the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bipartisan Senate bill aimed at reducing sentences for drug offenders, has put her directly at odds with the Obama Administration, a position the George W. Bush appointee knows all too well.

Back in January, Leonhart told a group of sheriffs behind closed doors that she was frustrated by the administration’s refusal to challenge Colorado and Washington over their newly enacted laws legalizing recreational marijuana. She told the officers that the White House’s hands-off approach was a “slap in the face” to those officers killed while trying to enforce drug laws.

Her comments caused an outcry among pot advocates like the Marijuana Policy Project, which immediately fired back at Leonhart. "Whether Ms. Leonhart is ignorant of the facts or intentionally disregarding them, she is clearly unfit for her current position," said MPP director Dan Riffle.

Since then, there have been routine calls from advocates for drug legalization and treatment for drug offenders for the Obama Administration to fire Leonhart, but Leonhart has so far managed to hold onto her position.

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