Michele Leonhart

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Michele Leonhart
Michele Leonhart official photo.jpg
Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration
Assumed office
November 10, 2007
Acting: November 10, 2007 – December 22, 2010
President George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Preceded by Karen Tandy
Personal details
Alma mater Bemidji State University

Michele Marie Leonhart is an American career law enforcement officer and the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Since the resignation of Administrator Karen P. Tandy in the fall of 2007, Leonhart also served as Acting Administrator of the DEA. On February 2, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Leonhart for the position of DEA Administrator;[1] the nomination was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration (nomination no. PN1430-111).


Leonhart graduated from Bemidji State University in 1978 with a degree in criminal justice, and began her career in law enforcement as a patrol officer in Baltimore, Maryland before entering the DEA in late 1980 as a Special Agent.[2] She became DEA's first female Special Agent in Charge in 1997.[2] President George W. Bush announced his intention to nominate Leonhart as Deputy Administrator on July 31, 2003,[3] and submitted her nomination to the United States Senate on October 3, 2003.[4] The Senate confirmed her nomination on March 8, 2004.[5] On April 15, 2008, the White House announced that President Bush intended to nominate Leonhart to succeed Tandy as the next Administrator of DEA.[6] Leonhart's nomination was received by the Senate the same day and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.[7] However, the committee did not hold any hearings on Leonhart's nomination, and on January 2, 2009, the nomination was returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate pursuant to sine die adjournment at the end of the 110th Congress.

DEA Administrator[edit]

During Leonhart's testimony before the Judiciary Committee, she was questioned by a member of the Committee on Aging, Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), about her policy for nurses prescribing painkillers for patients in nursing homes. The problem of DEA interference during Leonhart's acting administratorship with the prescription of painkillers by nurses in nursing homes had come before the Committee on Aging. Unsatisfied with her responses to his questions, Senator Kohl threatened to put a hold on Leonhart's nomination that could have postponed the vote on her confirmation indefinitely. In correspondence between the Committee on Aging and the DEA, Senator Kohl received assurances that patients suffering intractable pain could receive painkillers prescribed by nurses.[8] On December 22, 2010, the Senate confirmed Leonhart's nomination unanimously by voice vote.[9]


Leonhart has consistently turned down research into the therapeutic and medicinal benefits of cannabis, and has a track record of undermining state law with regard to legal medical uses. On July 21, 2010, several pro-legalization groups called on President Obama to withdraw his support of Leonhart, including SSDP, MPP, NORML, LEAP, and DPA. [10]

In 2011, the Washington Post reported that "994 people younger than 18 were killed in drug-related violence between late 2006 and late 2010" and that "[i]n 2009, the last year for which there is data, 1,180 children were killed, half in shootings."[11] In response to these statistics, Leonhart declared that while it "may seem contradictory, the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs.”[11]

In 2012, Leonhart testified before Congress and refused to say that cannabis is less addictive or harmful than methamphetamine, heroin, or crack-cocaine.[12] However, at one point she agreed with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) that the right to use medical cannabis should be “between [a patient] and his doctor.” Representative Cohen quickly criticized her statement as inconsistent with the actions of her agency.[13]

In 2014, Leonhart openly criticized President Barack Obama's stance on cannabis at a meeting of the National Sheriffs' Association.[14] Marijuana activists and two congressmen have called for her resignation due to her stance on cannabis while some law enforcement leaders have defended her position.[15] She also alleged that dog owners should oppose marijuana legalization due to edible products toxicity to animals. However there are no recorded deaths from Marijuana, animal or human.[16]


  1. ^ "Presidential Nomination Sent to the Senate, 2/2/10". The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. February 2, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Outstanding Alumni - 2009: Michele Leonhart". Bemidji State University. 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Personnel Announcement". The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. July 31, 2003. Retrieved April 28, 2008. 
  4. ^ "Nominations Sent to the Senate". The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. October 3, 2003. Retrieved April 28, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Presidential Nomination". The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved April 28, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Personnel Announcement". The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. April 15, 2008. Retrieved April 28, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Presidential Nomination". The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved April 28, 2008. 
  8. ^ http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/prescription-drug-policy/132057-dem-senator-threatens-to-block-obama-nominee-over-dea-restrictions-on-painkillers
  9. ^ "Michele M. Leonhart Confirmed by Senate as DEA Administrator". DEA, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs. December 22, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2010. 
  10. ^ http://blog.norml.org/2010/07/21/norml-opposes-president-obamas-pick-to-head-the-drug-enforcement-administration/
  11. ^ a b Pareene, Alex (April 15, 2011) DEA head: A thousand dead children means we're winning war on drugs, Salon.com
  12. ^ Dolan, Eric. "Top DEA agent won’t admit heroin more harmful, or caused more deaths, than marijuana". rawstory.com. Retrieved June 21, 2012. 
  13. ^ http://safeaccessnow.org/blog/blog/tag/michele-leonhart/
  14. ^ http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/report-dea-chief-rips-obamas-pot-remarks_775420.html
  15. ^ http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/29/congressmen-dea-administrator-completely-incompetent-should-assume-a-japanese-posture-and-resign
  16. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/02/dogs-marijuana-pets_n_5078556.html

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Karen Tandy
Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration