DEA Reiterates Cannabis Federally Illegal
DEA Reiterates Cannabis Federally Illegal – The acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in a 2News exclusive interview, said attacking the opioid crisis is the DEA’s “highest priority,” and reiterated that — no matter what states do in legalizing medical marijuana — it is still illegal under federal law.
“I’d like to put the overdose crisis into perspective,” said Uttam Dhillon, who was named acting DEA administrator by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last summer. “Last year, 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. It’s important to think about what that means. That’s a football stadium full of people, who at the beginning of the game are with you, and at the end of the game have passed away.”
Most of those deaths, he said, are from opioid overdoses, and Utah has contributed to the sobering numbers — opioid deaths here rank 7th per capita, in the country.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that Utah has a prescription drug problem,” Dhillon said, noting a way to fight it is to lessen supply, with “quotas” or caps on opioid products from drug manufacturers.
“Between 2016 and our 2019 quota, we’ll have cut 44 percent,” Dhillon said. “That’s going to make a difference here in Utah.”
In addition, he said the DEA is “ramping up the investigation side and the enforcement side” against opioids, and supports a new federal bill that targets foreign-made fentanyl, an opioid reportedly 50 times as potent as heroin, with much of the illicit shipments suspected to be from China.
Dhillon said hundreds of new DEA agents are being hired as quickly as possible, and nearly two dozen new assistant U.S. attorneys are being added, who will exclusively handle opioid cases.
As for marijuana, the Justice Department announced early this year “a return to the rule of law,” and the attorney general directed U.S. attorneys “to enforce the laws enacted by Congress…to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”
Now, Utah seems on the verge of approving some form of medical marijuana, either by the passage of Prop 2 or by legislative action before the end of the year.
“Marijuana remains illegal under federal law,” Dhillon said. “Anyone who is registered to dispense controlled substances is required to follow federal law.”
If Utah makes marijuana legal, 2News asked Dhillon if he could assure doctors who prescribe and pharmacists who dose the drugs will not face action from the DEA.
“Right now, nothing has passed, as I understand it,” he replied. “It’s impossible for me to say how any of that will shake out.”