Trump and The DEA Make The Choice To Shake Up Marijuana Politics
U.S. President Donald Trump will make a change to the nation’s top anti-drug official on Sunday when Chuck Rosenberg resigns after leading the DEA for more than two weeks and cannabis advocates are anxiously waiting to see who he will choose next. It remains unclear who Trump will assign as acting administrator, or if that person will be temporary or a long-term acting administrator like Rosenberg and his precursor Michele Leonhart, who served three years without the confirmation of Senate.
What we do know is that whoever gets appointed will be in charge of nearly 11,000 person agency at a crucial time, with anti-pot AG Jeff Sessions reviewing the Obama administration’s 2013 Cole Memo that permitted states to regulate recreational marijuana in violation of federal law. Trump reported during his campaign last year that he endorses legal access to medical cannabis and state autonomy for recreational marijuana, despite his uncertainties about legalization. Though as President, Trump has been quiet among multiple condemnations from Session.
“If the Justice Department is considering a new enforcement posture, the head of the DEA is likely going to have a strong voice in how that is designed,” stated Lewis Koski, an ex-director of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.
Koski, a cannabis regulation consultant, believes any crackdown would be a political obstacle, and that while “marijuana is certainly going to be an issue they are addressing” increasing deaths from opioid abuse may control the new leader’s focus.
Cannabis researcher Dr. Sue Sisley reports that hope, but her positivity is ignited by years struggling with federal rules as part of a study on marijuana as a treatment for PSTD.
“This guy sets the tone for how the entire administration deals with cannabis,” Sisley reported on the DEA’s position.
“We hope that he will be removed, but if Sessions is allowed to persist in that role, we will need to have a DEA administrator who has the backbone to challenge Sessions on his antiquated thinking,” she added.
From the other side of the fence, Kevin Sabet, an anti-marijuana-legalization organizer and former presidential drug policy adviser, said he thinks the DEA appointee will most likely not make any major policy decisions. “They are taking their orders directly from the attorney general, who is taking his orders directly from the White House,” Sabet stated. “If the president and Jeff Sessions together decide to shut down the marijuana industry, certainly there will be a role for the DEA but I’m not sure the administrator will make that call.”
Sabet, head of the national anti-legalization advocacy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, continued: “Too often folks want a boogeyman or boogeywoman in the drug war, and it’s easy to point at the DEA for that, but in reality, their ability to change policy is quite limited.”