New DEA Chief, Same DEA Policies

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Late last Thursday night -- on a voice vote, with no debate -- the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Karen Tandy to be the new head of the Justice Department's Drug Enforcement Administration. Tandy has stated, in written answers to questions submitted by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that the DEA's raids on seriously ill medical marijuana patients in California are an appropriate policy that should continue.

"We are saddened and disturbed that the Senate has voted to continue these attacks on the sick -- and did it in the dead of night with no recorded vote and no debate," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.

The Judiciary Committee's June 26 hearing on Tandy's nomination was sparsely attended, and no questions were asked about the DEA's medical marijuana raids. However, several senators did submit written questions to the nominee.

In response to questions from U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tandy indicated she would continue the medical marijuana raids, writing that it would be "my duty to see to the uniform enforcement of federal law."

Tandy also asserted that marijuana "has not been shown to have medicinal benefits." She astonished observers by adding that she was "not personally familiar" with the two key U.S. government reports documenting those benefits: a 1988 ruling by DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young and the 1999 Institute of Medicine report on medical marijuana, commissioned by the White House.

"To claim there is no evidence of marijuana's medical benefits -- without having bothered to read the two key U.S. government reports on the issue -- is as absurd as claiming there is no constitutional protection for abortion rights without having read Roe v. Wade," Fox said. "Tandy has demonstrated the `don't confuse me with facts' attitude that has characterized the entire federal attack on medical marijuana. Sen. Durbin should be congratulated for raising the issue, but the Senate as a whole has shirked its responsibility by confirming this nominee with no meaningful debate."

Reprinted from a Marijuana Policy Project press release.

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