Marijuana is growing in popularity. Society is more accepting of it, as is the law in many states. However, experts do not expect that the Drug Enforcement Administration will change its views on legalization when President Donald Trump appoints a new head to run the agency. The federal authority responsible for the “war on drugs” has never been favorable toward pot, and a new DEA head will not change that.
Experts do not believe pot policy will change within the DEA soon. In fact, they say that the Trump administration’s opinions on issues such as cannabis legalization, drug arrests, and even the Mexican border wall will make people less accepting of it, and this despite the fact that a recent poll shows 86 percent of Americans supportive of legalizing the plant in some or other capacity.
It is still unclear just who Chuck Rosenberg’s replacement will be. Appointed by ex-President Barack Obama as head of the DEA in 2015, his resignation comes just two months after making derisive comments about Trump’s saying that police officers were “too nice” when dealing professionally with suspects on the job.
Rick Fuentes, widely considered a leading choice to replace Rosenberg and New Jersey State Police Superintendent, opted not to make a comment. The White House also declined comment when it failed to call back. Many are optimistic that a new head could revitalize the agency and give it an opportunity to focus on fighting real drug wars, such as the often-tragic opioid crisis afflicting the nation.
In 2015, opioid drugs killed more than 52,000 people. Despite these worrying figures, law enforcement agencies are continuing to waste valuable resources on targeting weed consumers, even though legalization is sweeping across more and more states. It is legal medically in almost 30 states now, and eight have or are busy legalizing it recreationally too.
Late last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigations released arrest data. It detailed an increase in the volume of citizens arrested for possessing marijuana last year. Experts claim that taxpayers pay billions of dollars each year sending nearly 600,000 people through the criminal justice system for carrying a little pot in their pockets.
“I hope that whoever is next will deal with the reality that a lot of states have legalized marijuana and it is not a good use of resources for police to be arresting these people and ruining lives.” This is the opinion of Bill Piper, a senior director for the Drug Policy Alliance, who also said, “These are proven failed ways to approach this issue.”
During Rosenberg’s time as DEA head, well over two dozen applications were blocked, and these simply for scientists to research the plant. Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, thinks it extremely unlikely that the policy will change. Trump’s administration includes a large number of important figures opposing the legalization of weed.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an outspoken legalization opponent, does not even think it should be legal for medical purposes. He has in the past accused the plant of being “only slightly less awful” than heroin. President Trump maintains that his wall on the Mexican border will stop immigrants from crossing illegally and eliminate much of the drugs crossing the border from Mexico.
Although that is true, it may just encourage cartels and drug dealers to find other more profitable and dangerous ways of trafficking pot. It will force dealers to ship smaller drug packages across the border, and according to Tree, it may entice them to add opioid fentanyl to it, a cheap and deadly synthetic to maximize profits.
Time will tell, but if Rosenberg’s replacement attempts to put new policies into effect or influence the department to change, he or she would face much resistance. “I am not optimistic at all,” Tree made clear. “Not during this administration.”