Marijuana group: Fire DEA official who opposes pot

A group that wants to legalize pot is calling on President Obama to fire the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Marijuana Policy Project, which argues the dangers of pot are overstated, is petitioning to have DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart replaced with a more pot-friendly DEA chief.

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They have won nearly 5,000 signatures on their petition so far. 

The group is upset because of reports that Leonhart criticized Obama’s comments that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol.

“Whether Ms. Leonhart is ignorant of the facts or intentionally disregarding them, she is clearly unfit for her current position,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said Monday in a statement. “By any objective measure, marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and society. It is irresponsible and unacceptable for a government official charged with enforcing our drug laws to deny the facts surrounding the nation’s two most popular recreational drugs.”

Leonhart told a group of sheriffs in a closed-door meeting that the president didn't understand the science well enough to discuss the dangers of pot, according to a report in The Boston Herald.

In a statement to the Huffington Post, the DEA said Leonhart’s remarks were not against the president, but against “continued messages that the DEA is not in support of legalization.”

This isn't the first time Leonhart has angered pro-marijuana groups. The Marijuana Policy Project also criticized her for avoiding questions during a 2012 congressional hearing about whether marijuana is more dangerous than heroin and crack cocaine.

The Marijuana Policy Project also accused her of blocking attempts to remove marijuana from the DEA's controlled substances list. 

The Marijuana Policy Project pointed to studies by the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine that argue alcohol is worse than pot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is responsible for about 40,000 deaths each year in the U.S., where as the agency has never reported a death due to a marijuana overdose, the group said.

“The DEA administrator’s continued refusal to recognize marijuana’s relative safety compared to alcohol and other drugs flies in the face of the president’s commitment to prioritizing science over ideology and politics," Riffle said. "She is neglecting the basic obligations of her job and fundamentally undermining her employer’s mission. This would be grounds for termination in the private sector, and the consequences for Ms. Leonhart should be no different.”

The DEA considers marijuana a gateway drug that can lead users to do more dangerous drugs like heroin and cocaine.