Citing Michelle Leonhart's controversial position on prescription pain-killers for terminal patients suffering intractable pain, Senate Judiciary Committee Member Senator Kohl (D-Wis.) will block her nomination to head the DEA.
Senator Kohl has the power to stall Leonhart's confirmation for a very long time.
Last month in Leonhart's formal hearings, Sen. Herb Kohl questioned Leonhart to clarify her policy concerning new legislation to permit nurses in long-term care facilities to prescribe a range of anodynes including morphine to patients suffering intractable pain.
The backstory is quite simple. In October 2009, Sen. Kohl and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called attention to perplexing orders issued by Leonhart as Acting Administrator of DEA that restricted prescription drugs to patients in nursing homes. According to Kohl and Whitehouse, patients in American nursing homes are suffering intractable pain as a direct repercussion of Leonhart's directive.
Leonhart has a professional reputation as a strict prohibitionist and tough drug enforcement official. Leonhart assumed her post as Acting Administrator of DEA in the autumn of 2007. This February, she was nominated to the post of Administrator, but her nomination has been languishing in the Judiciary Committee due to the growing sense of concern about her personal capacity to conduct her office with objectivity and respect for the scientific community.
Leonhart is a long-serving law enforcement official who rose to prominence under President George Bush who nominated her to the position of Deputy Administrator of the DEA in 2004.
Leading authorities in the scientific and drug reform community have serious doubts about Leonhart's personal capacity for logical objectivity and her willingness to accept the scientific evidence concerning the therapeutic application of medical marijuana.
In recent months, a group of drug reform organizations have called upon President Obama to rescind official support for Leonhart. These institutions include: Students for Sensible Drug Policy; Drug Policy Alliance; Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Marijuana Policy Project.
Perry Parks, a Board member of the North Carolina Cannabis Patients' Network, expressed his concerns about Leonhart, "Michelle Leonhart is not qualified for the office of Administrator, because she refuses to accept the overwhelming preponderance of scientific evidence about the therapeutic properties of marijuana. America and her veterans suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) deserve a scientifically objective approach to the evidence about a medication that alleviates the symptoms of PTSD and has been authorized by the Department of Veterans Affairs."
Now that Leonhart's nomination has stalled in the Senate after ten months of sober deliberation culminating in her problematic and ambiguous testimony, it is likely that the White House will look beyond her for a new nominee to head DEA early next year.
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