From the direct federal oversight of all drug classifications over the Controlled Substances Act schedule—and with a choke-hold on MJ research—the departure of acting DEA head Chuck Rosenberg is worrisome to many in the cannabis industry.
While Rosenberg said medical MJ was “a joke,” he also last summer opened the door to loosening rules for a more streamlined research procedure for cannabis and greater study-drug access. Leading the potential replacement group is Col. James “Rick” Fuentes, the New Jersey State Police
Leading the potential replacement group is Col. James “Rick” Fuentes, the New Jersey State Police superintendent, the state’s “top cop.” And while one side worries the outgoing (and cannabis-hating) governor Chris Christie may negatively influence Fuentes, others will depend on strong cannabis advocate Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) to inform Fuentes on “real-world” MJ reality.
In either case, in a Trump nomination for Fuentes (or for others below) there remains the specter of the new DEA head wanting to gain the President’s approval, and therefore tow a close line to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his continued War on Drugs. For his part, Rosenberg as an Obama administration holdover, came to the post in mid-2015, taking over after the botched oversight of big-partying, prostitute-chasing DEA agents under past director Michelle Leonhart, a rabid cannabis critic.
Raids spearheaded by DEA and local cops have been almost non-existent in 2017, following California’s vote to legalize last November. But a fresh set of enforcement actions to close non-licensed grows and retailers are certain to occur as California finalizes its legal framework in 2018, and a return to a massive expected “gray market” may deliver law enforcement with players unwilling to process the mass of paper to become legal entities.
Last week, both Los Angeles and San Francisco officials said they would ask all current stores to close, then begin with a clean local and state authorization. In California, the DEA may not be called upon for any of these new enforcement actions, or it may be very active.
Reports from ABC News identified three other long-shots at being named to head the DEA, all needing a potentially problematic push for Senate confirmation. They are Robert Charles, a former State Department assistant-secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement; Rick Sanders, a state police commissioner for Kentucky; and Marshall Fisher, another state commissioner for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.
Fuentes has served a long 36 years at the Jersey state police, including 10 years as superintendent. His department was the target of federal racial discrimination charges in 2002-2010, but he was given high marks for leading much of the New Jersey response to Hurricane Sandy. Other controversies included the 2007 car crash involving a trooper and Gov. Jon Corzine; the 2009 beating by troopers of a mentally disabled man; and the 2012 high-speed escort of sports cars by troopers.
Photo caption: New Jersey state police leader Colonel James “Rick” Fuentes talking to reporters during the October 2012 “Hurricane Sandy” mobilization, Fuentes has a reportedly good relationship with his current boss, NJ governor Chris Christie (right).