At a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing held today to conduct Drug Enforcement Administration oversight, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) — a major proponent of marijuana legalization — tried for several minutes to get an answer from DEA administrator Michele Leonhart on the relative severity of marijuana compared to other Schedule I narcotics.
"Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?" Polis asked. "I believe all illegal drugs are bad," Leonhart replied.
The politician pressed on: "Is methamphetamine worse for somebody's health than marijuana? Is heroin worse for someone's health than marijuana?" Leonhart attempted to repeat her previous response and was cut off by Polis.
"Either yes, no, or I don't know," he said sternly. "If you don't know, you can look this up. You should know this as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency." He restated the question, but Leonhart once more replied, "All illegal drugs are bad."
After attempting again to evade answering Polis by claiming his question was "subjective," Leonhart eventually conceded that heroin and meth were in some ways worse than marijuana, but quickly doubled back, asserting that "these drugs are illegal because they are dangerous."
Leonhart was originally installed as DEA Deputy Administrator during Bush 43. She became acting Administrator in 2007, and was officially nominated by Obama three years later.