DEA Head Chuck Rosenberg Resigns. Now Who Takes Over?

Obama-era appointee Chuck Rosenberg will stay in his post until October 1. (Alex Brandon/AP)

The Washington Post and New York Times have reported that Chuck Rosenberg, acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), will resign at the end of this week. The Times attributed Rosenberg’s departure to his growing conviction that President Trump “had little respect for the law.”

Rosenberg was no fan of cannabis. Two years ago he called medical marijuana 'a joke.'

Rosenberg, who will step down on October 1, was a holdover from the Obama Administration. He’s been running the agency in an acting capacity since 2015, when he took over for then-DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart. Leonhart resigned over her mishandling of a scandal involving DEA agents and prostitutes. Leonhart had also disagreed strongly with how President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder handled state-legal marijuana.

Rosenberg moved over to guide the DEA after serving as chief of staff to then-FBI Director James Comey. Comey was fired by President Trump earlier this year, and the action did nothing to improve the relationship between the President and his acting DEA administrator. When Trump suggested that police “please don’t be too nice” when handling criminal suspects, Rosenberg rejected his comments in an email sent to DEA employees. “We have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong,” he wrote.

Not a Fan of ‘Smoking the Leaf’

The DEA head was certainly no friend of the legal cannabis industry. Rosenberg once allowed that cannabis was “probably not” as dangerous as heroin, while also stating that “marijuana is not medicine.” In late 2015, several patient advocates called for his resignation after Rosenberg called medical marijuana “a joke.”

Here are a few of his further comments during that 2015 Q&A with reporters: “What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not. We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.” Rosenberg added: “There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise. But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana — which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana — it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”

Eight months into his term, President Trump has yet to nominate a candidate to head the DEA. While Rosenberg’s presence in no way prevented the White House from doing so, his absence may put a bit more pressure on the administration to fill the post. The DEA is an agency of the Justice Department, which is overseen by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.