“Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert.”
The new leader of the Drug Enforcement Administration said Tuesday heroin probably is more dangerous than marijuana, diverging in tone from his embattled predecessor.
Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, a former prosecutor whose stance on drug reform is somewhat of a mystery, also said his agents are not prioritizing marijuana enforcement — though he’s not ordered them off it.
The statements, made on a morning conference call, were far from an endorsement of marijuana, which four states allow for recreational use and many others do for medical purposes.
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“If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is,” Rosenberg said. “Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert.”
He added: “Let me say it this way: I’d rather be in a car accident going 30 miles an hour than 60 miles an hour, but I’d prefer not to be in a car accident at all.”
It’s a seemingly unremarkable answer and cautiously made. But it’s a significant break with his predecessor, Michele Leonhart, who said comparisons of pot to crack cocaine or heroin would be “subjective” and that it’s an “insidious” drug.
Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, says he appreciates Rosenberg’s candor.
“This is not a matter of opinion,” he says, “It’s far less harmful than heroin and it’s encouraging that the DEA is finally willing to recognize that.” Riffle notes thousands of overdose deaths each year result from opioid abuse compared to none from marijuana, which also is less likely to result in dependence.