Nation & World

DEA administrator plans to step down; had faced off with others over marijuana research

WASHINGTON – Acting Drug Enforcement Administration head Chuck Rosenberg, a veteran attorney and law enforcement official who has found himself at odds with the Trump administration in recent months, told staff members Tuesday that he is planning to step down from his post in less than a week.

Rosenberg, a holdover from the administration of President Barack Obama, wrote that he would leave his position as the DEA’s acting administration on October 1. In an email to his staff, Rosenberg said he was proud to have led the “remarkable agency.”

“The neighborhoods in which we live are better for your commitment to the rule of law, dedication to the cause of justice, and perseverance in the face of adversity,” Rosenberg wrote. “You will continue to do great things. I will continue to root for you, now from the sidelines.”

Rosenberg’s departure was not completely surprising; Trump was always likely to have wanted someone of his own choosing to lead the nation’s premier agency on narcotics enforcement. But the development is nonetheless important, particularly because Rosenberg, who had been running the agency in an acting capacity since 2015, had earned a reputation as someone willing to put himself at odds with his bosses in the White House and the Justice Department.

A former U.S. Attorney and senior counselor to James Comey when Comey was director of the FBI, Rosenberg garnered particular attention in July when he wrote an email to DEA personnel rejecting Trump’s comments suggesting criminal suspects might be treated roughly when being put into police vehicles.

“We have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong,” Rosenberg wrote in the email.

It was not immediately clear who would replace Rosenberg, though people with knowledge of internal discussions at the DEA said Col. Joseph Fuentes, the head of the New Jersey State Police, was thought to be a leading contender to earn President Donald Trump’s nomination. A spokesman for the New Jersey State Police declined to comment.

Special report: Cannabis and the environment.

Rosenberg has also been at loggerheads with Justice Department leaders over marijuana research. The department, according to officials, has effectively blocked the DEA from taking action on more than two dozen requests to grow marijuana to use in research.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a hard line against marijuana and is generally opposed to easing restrictions on the drug. Rosenberg and Sessions also have different views on the Central American gang MS-13. Sessions has called combatting the gang a major priority for federal law enforcement, while DEA officials say Mexican drug cartels are far more dangerous given their financing and organization.

Fuentes is a career law enforcement officer who has led the New Jersey State Police since 2003. He harshly criticized the Obama administration for striking a deal with Cuba to restore diplomatic relations with that country without addressing the question of long-sought fugitives, including one who killed a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973.

“We approach the next presidential administration with a renewed sense of optimism and moral superiority that justice will prevail,” Fuentes said in a statement last January.


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