The country’s new DEA chief has staunchly defended the agency’s ill-fated war on drugs after he emphatically criticized the legalization of marijuana. Lawyers, doctors and the population in general were looking for the new head to take a softer stand on the plant as increasingly more cities and states in the U.S. adopt more lenient laws on the drug.
Instead Chuck Rosenberg said he would not support the legalization of marijuana during an interview with Fox News. The discussion was centered on the rising heroin epidemic in the U.S. and when the topic of marijuana came up, Rosenberg said he did not think marijuana was as dangerous or harmful as heroin but still said he found the drug dangerous.
Rosenberg said “Marijuana is dangerous. It certainly is not as dangerous as other Schedule I controlled substances; it’s not as dangerous as heroin, clearly, but it’s still dangerous. It’s not good for you. I wouldn’t want my children smoking it. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone do it. So I don’t frankly see a reason to remove it.”
Rosenberg further expressed the DEA’s stance on tougher marijuana laws by saying the department would enforce federal laws on marijuana even for states and cities that had legalized the drug.
The department’s head said, “I’ve been very clear to my special agents in charge: If you have a big marijuana case, if that, in your jurisdiction, is one of your biggest problems, then bring it.”
While it is the DEA’s job to enforce federal laws, regardless of how ill-conceived, the comments raise troubling questions about the level of knowledge on the issue held by Mr. Rosenberg.
Marijuana has been found in countless academic studies to be safer than almost any other drug, including alcohol. Drinking is responsible for more violent deaths and injuries than any other drug type combined.
American states and cities are increasingly waking up to this reality and adopting more smoker-friendly laws on the drug.
Between 2012 and 2014, both Colorado and Washington passed regulations decriminalizing and legalizing the drug. Both have even gone ahead to open the first legal retail markets for the drug in the U.S. In 2014 alone, Alaska, Oregon and Washington DC legalized the drug.
Reformists have been advocating for the drug’s legalization by mere dint of its medical benefits based on the fact that many studies have indeed found cannabis to be medically beneficial. The plant is a powerful anti-inflammatory, it assists in the prevention of Alzheimer's and even helps in killing harmful cancer cells. Recently, the government backed National Cancer Institute admitted to its anticancer properties.
Many legalization advocates are wondering why the DEA would take such a strong anti-legalization position while ignoring all the plant’s benefits. It seems the tide has turned and the DEA risks being swept out to sea.