Biden selects ex-state attorney general to lead DEA; marijuana stance unclear

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President Joe Biden has tapped Anne Milgram, a former state attorney general and longtime criminal justice advocate, to head the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

In 2009, as the state attorney general of New Jersey, Milgram was quoted as saying that a plan there to legalize medical marijuana was “workable.”

But those comments came more than a decade ago, and it was unclear Tuesday what her current stance is on marijuana policy and reform.

“Like Anne Milgram’s prospective boss Attorney General (Merrick) Garland, it is tough to tell exactly what her stance on cannabis will be, but her focus on evidence-based policy is cause to be optimistic,” Morgan Fox, spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.

“Ideally, Milgram would focus the DEA’s resources on non-cannabis issues and violence associated with the drug trade, and will facilitate the eventual transition of jurisdiction over cannabis to regulatory agencies that are not part of the law enforcement sphere.”

The Washington Post reported that Milgram is data-focused, and a proponent of targeting the top of the illegal drug-supply chain rather than going after low-level violators.

Milgram’s appointment comes at a time when states increasingly are legalizing adult-use marijuana and making reparations to communities and individuals disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

New York, Virginia and New Mexico are the most recent states to legalize recreational marijuana, after residents of Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana voted to do so at the ballot box last November.

In addition to enforcement issues, the DEA has been criticized by the marijuana industry and a number of lawmakers in recent years for dragging its heels in approving applications from businesses and research institutions to study marijuana.

Milgram most recently has been working as an attorney for New Jersey-based Lowenstein Sandler and has been teaching at the New York University School of Law.

Her professional career has included stints as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan and as a civil rights prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice.