Washington, DC (November 18, 2015) – Following recent comments by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, calling medical marijuana “a joke,” today on the House floor, Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) called for new DEA leadership.

To follow are Congressman Blumenauer’s remarks as prepared. Click here to watch his speech.

“Chuck Rosenberg, the Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, recently called the notion of smoking medical marijuana ‘a joke.’ What is a joke is the job Rosenberg is doing as Acting DEA Administrator. He is an example of an inept, misinformed zealot, who has mismanaged America’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition. 

“Americans recognize it’s time for a change in direction to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. Fifty-eight percent now support legalization, continuing an upward trend in public opinion polls and at the ballot box. Over 75 percent of the American public supports medical marijuana, as does a majority of American physicians.

“Rosenberg claims medical marijuana is a joke, but the proven therapeutic value of cannabis has prompted 23 states, Guam, and the District of Columbia to approve its medical application, and an additional 17 states have authorized its more limited use.

“Rosenberg’s claim that more research is necessary is true, but reeks of hypocrisy because the DEA under his leadership has made badly needed cannabis research difficult and often impossible. If Rosenberg was doing his job, he would have visited with some of the hundreds of thousands who have found medical marijuana has had a profound effect on their lives and that of their families.

“President Obama is the first sitting president to tell the truth about cannabis. His Administration has not acted to shut down the adult or medical marijuana reforms that are sweeping the country, but sadly it isn’t just his DEA Administrator who is undercutting his policy.

“Earlier this year, the Department of Justice took an outrageously flawed position on the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment that passed with strong, bipartisan support and clearly specified that the federal government should not interfere with state-legal medical marijuana operations. The Department of Justice and the DEA contends that it only prevents action against states, not individuals. This is a ridiculous interpretation of the law and caused a federal court in California to rule this interpretation defies language and logic, in deciding against them.

“More recently, the Senate passed the MilCon-VA Appropriations bill, which included an amendment offered by my colleague in Oregon, Senator Merkley, mirroring my legislation to allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in accordance with state law. Yet on November 13, the Department of Veterans Affairs indicated they won’t allow doctors and patients to participate in state-legal marijuana laws, even if this bill becomes law.

“Sadly, these actions by Administration officials are indicative of a throwback ideology rooted in the failed War on Drugs, which needs to stop. They do not reflect the overwhelming body of evidence about the effects of medical marijuana, the reforms happening at the state level and in Congress, or the opinion of the American people. They don’t reflect the statements by the President himself and the official policy promulgated by former Deputy Attorney General Cole outlining the Administration’s commitment to stay out of the way of state marijuana laws.

“There’s overwhelming evidence that marijuana offers relief when nothing else has helped, including as a more effective pain management tool than highly addictive narcotics. Opioid overdoses are skyrocketing, and we have an epidemic of heroin abuse and overdose.

“Sadly the culture of opposition in the federal government continues. On one level we have this amazing progress at the state and local level. We’ve made significant progress here in Congress, with the introduction of over 20 bills in both chambers dealing with the federal treatment of cannabis and hemp and the successful votes on three amendments in the House and three in Senate committees in this Congress.

“This culture needs to change. Leadership needs to change. Rosenberg is clearly not the right fit for the DEA in this Administration. I would hope that the President directs the heads of all relevant agencies to adjust their policies, clarify regulations that deal with marijuana laws, establish policies that reflect changing state laws, and most important, reflect the President’s own position. He has said he has bigger fish to fry than interfere with state legalization efforts. It’s time that the rest of his Administration gets on board. It should start with a new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.”

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