We used to clown each other on the basketball court like “Hey, you should take two weeks off…then quit” but it appears that someone gave that advice to the acting administrator of the DEA, Robert Patterson, and he is taking it.
Recently Patterson was roasted on Capitol Hill by cannabis-friendly lawmakers who described cannabis reform as a “freedom issue” while urging the head of the DEA to make sure the agency stays educated on the rapidly changing public perception and fact-based evidence surrounding cannabis legalized at the state level.
Rep. Steven Cohen from Tennessee told Patterson, “The DEA has always been in a position of great importance—and it’s important that the DEA administrator stay current with what the people have shown by their actions and their statements what they believe is the right priorities for the DEA.”
He followed up by asking Patterson why he believed that cannabis still belongs on Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act, keeping it illegal at the federal level.
No really, those are quotes, he said that.
Cohen intensified the heat with a response of, “I’m happy to hear that you believe in science, that’s refreshing.”
Failing to see the ambush he was walking into, Patterson warned that is is our country that is “going down a bad path with marijuana”, and warned that one only needs to look at the “social experiment” in Colorado – one of the first states in the nation to legalize recreational cannabis back in 2014 – for proof.
Well, sir, we saw THIS headline this week that Colorado schools are getting their largest construction contribution ever this year. $447 MILLION going into 35 school construction projects, a large chunk of which came from excise taxes collected on legal cannabis sales in the state.
Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia smelled blood and took his shot, bringing up a 2016 statistic that 64,000 Americans had died that year from drug overdoses. Johnson wanted to know how many of those 64,000 deaths were from opioid overdoses specifically.
Patterson stated that roughly 44,000 of them were from opioids.
Johnson repeated the question but substituted opioids for cannabis and Patterson took the bait, saying he was unaware of any cannabis-related overdoses on record in 2016, but that he was “aware of a few deaths”.
Spoiler Alert: in the 5000 year relationship between mankind and cannabis, there have been exactly zero overdoses from cannabis… so much for the DEA staying current…
Pressed further by congressmen who knew better, Patterson relented and said he did not have the references readily available but that to his knowledge those anecdotal deaths were due to some sort of “adulterated” cannabis.
Yeah, no shit, just let us grow the damn plant and you won’t have jackasses trying to simulate it in a bath salts lab.
Patterson did admit that he understood the underlying point, and agreed that it is disingenuous to compare the alleged risks of cannabis use with the known risks of opioid use.
But that was then.
On Wednesday of this week we got news of his sudden retirement, effective in two weeks.
He had apparently emailed his staff and let them know of his plans, stating that the uncertainty surrounding the fill-in nature of his role had become “increasingly difficult”.
Patterson became the acting head of the DEA in October of last year by replacing another acting head since Trump could not get a confirmation through the Senate. The man he replaced also quit the job, but for him it was after months of infighting with Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice over their idiotic stance on cannabis.
Patterson's replies to Congress stunk of Sessions' marching orders but who knows, maybe he really believes those bogus claims.
So to say that the DEA is confused about cannabis is an understatement and, as of right now, nobody has any idea who might be next through the revolving door to provide some leadership on the issue.
After a 30 year career as a public servant Patterson is unfortunately incorrect about cannabis, but he was clearly dedicated to his career and we wish him the best retirement possible. Just go.