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Monday, November 23, 2015

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee Joins Chorus to Fire DEA Chief

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 12:25 PM

click to enlarge DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg, left, isn't on the good side of U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, right.
  • DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg, left, isn't on the good side of U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, right.

The acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chuck Rosenberg, has been on the job just six months, but he's already stepped in it.

The head of the nation's federal drug police recently gave credence to the theory of a "Ferguson effect," in which crime waves are tied to people filming police, who are subsequently too scared to do their jobs (or something). And earlier this month, he also publicly denounced medical marijuana as "a joke."

Rosenberg, remember, can't use his DEA to bust state-legal medical marijuana operations thanks to a move earlier this year by members of Congress. Those same members of Congress, including Oakland's U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, have now joined a chorus calling Rosenberg's words "a throwback idelogy rooted in the failed War on Drugs," and is pressing President Obama for his immediate removal. That' s also the goal of a petition, which has of Monday garnered over 105,000 signatures.

In comments to reporters, Rosenberg voiced what is, judging by outward appearances, still a majority view in law enforcement on cannabis.

Per the Huffington Post:

"What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not,” Rosenberg told reporters last week. “We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.

“There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise,” he continued. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana, which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana, it has never been shown to be safe or effective as medicine.”

This is not even remotely truthful. A quick search of studies in the National Institutes of Health's database reveals several studies in which smoked cannabis helped patients with Parkinson's disease, and there are mountains of anecdotes about smoked cannabis's efficacy stimulating the appetites and aiding the sleep of patients with HIV/AIDS and cancer.

This also, according to a letter co-signed by Lee, shows that "Mr. Rosenberg is not the right person to lead the DEA."

His "statements send a clear signal to the American people that the federal government isn't listening to them," the letter reads. "It erodes trust. Cavalier statements like these fly in the face of state policy and the experience of millions of patients."

Lee has been one of Congress's most cannabis-friendly politicians for some time (she does, after all, represent Oakland, where, according to the DEA, dabs were born), calling out the feds for their efforts to shut down taxpaying dispensaries in Oakland and Berkeley.

She was also a cosigner of the budget amendment sponsored by Reps. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) that stripped from the Department of Justice, of which DEA is a part, funding to enforce federal drug laws on cannabis in states where the drug is legal. (And that budget amendment has real teeth, a federal district judge in San Francisco ruled last month.)

Can this be enough to unseat a drug warrior? At the least, it could make for interesting confirmation hearings.
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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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