Video: DEA's Denial Does It No Credit

Video: DEA's Denial Does It No Credit

By Tony O'Neill 06/22/12

The DEA chief administrator repeatedly evades marijuana questions in Congress.

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Leonhart sticks to her mantra.

“I’m just asking you, as an expert, is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?” A simple question. And one that DEA chief administrator Michele Leonhart is apparently unable—or unwilling—to answer. A House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing this week saw Leonhart repeatedly refuse to admit that any drug is more dangerous or addictive than marijuana, as The Raw Story reports:

Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado pressed Leonhart on whether illegal drugs like methamphetamine and crack, as well as legal prescription drugs, caused greater harm to public health compared to marijuana. But within a three-minute time-span, Leonhart dodged his questions eleven times. “Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?” Polis, who has called for an end to marijuana prohibition, asked.

“I believe all illegal drugs are bad,” Leonhart responded.

“Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?” Polis continued. “Is heroin worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?”

“Again, all drugs,” Leonhart began to say, only to be cut off by Polis.

“Yes, no, or I don’t know?” Polis said. “If you don’t know this, you can look this up. As the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency, I’m asking a very straightforward question.”


The scene recalled Big Tobacco denying the addictive nature of nicotine during the Waxman hearings, or Soviet scientists being forced to denounce any work that ideologically contradicted state policy. Leonhart exhibits a pronounced “deer in the headlights” look, as Rep. Polis repeatedly demands a straight answer:

But don’t be fooled into thinking that Leonhart is clueless. She's just cynically touting the party line, rather than replying honestly. A Bush appointee, nominated to DEA Administrator by Obama in 2010, she's a living example of how a willful lack of openness on drugs flourishes across partisan lines. Listening to her repetition of the “All illegal drugs are addictive” mantra is strangely reminiscent of someone...

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Tony O'Neill, a regular contributor to The Fix, is the author of several novels, including Digging the VeinDown and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie). He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. You can follow Tony on Twitter.

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