WASHINGTON -- A federal law enforcement officers organization implied that a marijuana lobbying group was high and suppressing the First Amendment rights of the Drug Enforcement Administration's director when it suggested she be fired for reportedly criticizing President Barack Obama.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association said in a press release Tuesday that the Marijuana Policy Project, "perhaps while under the influence of a mind altering substance," was seeking to "trample on the Administrator's freedom of speech ‐ a Constitutional right ‐ while trumpeting their new‐found Colorado freedom to get high in public and spread the stench of their smoke."
At a closed-door sheriffs conference in Washington last week, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart reportedly criticized Obama for saying that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol. A DEA spokeswoman told HuffPost her comments were directed in opposition to marijuana legalization. On Monday, the MPP urged the White House to fire Leonhart.
FLEOA National President Jon Adler came to Leonhart's defense in the statement, calling her "one of the best law enforcement leaders in our country" and slammed the MPP's call for Leonhart's ouster. "So what's next from the MPP?" it said. "Start a petition to fire all life guards for preventing you from drowning in a stupor!"
But Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told HuffPost that the FLEOA doesn’t have its facts straight. "If anyone is under the influence of a mind-altering substance, it’s the FLEOA for thinking that under Ms. Leonhart’s leadership, the DEA has amassed an 'impressive record,'" he said.
"We’re not calling for her to be fired because she disagrees with President Obama," Riffle continued. "We’re calling for her to be fired because she disagrees with basic scientific facts, and it’s her job to make decisions based on those facts. Marijuana is less addictive, less toxic, less harmful to the body, and unlike alcohol, doesn’t cause violent behavior. It is objectively less harmful than alcohol, yet Ms. Leonhart has obstructed efforts to remove marijuana from its current classification as a 'Schedule I' drug alongside heroin and methamphetamine."
Leonhart does not necessarily have the First Amendment right to criticize her boss without any consequences. While firing a political appointee for remarks about the president might result in some backlash against the Obama administration, it doesn't appear to raise any constitutional issues. (Plenty of Americans don't understand the First Amendment.)
Riffle also said his group wasn't trying to trample Leonhart's rights. "If Ms. Leonhart would like to proclaim the world is flat, that’s her right, but the American public shouldn’t be forced to hand over $165,000 of their hard-earned tax dollars to pay her an exorbitant salary for doing so," he said.
Asked by HuffPost how he thought the First Amendment came into play in this case, Adler didn't respond directly, but said that Leonhart's position is confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I would like to think that the president is open-minded enough to consider an alternative view allegedly expressed by a proven law enforcement leader," he said.