DEA Administrator Karen Tandy is retiring. She’ll be taking an executive position with Motorola, also the chief corporate sponsor of the DEA’s traveling exhibit that attempts to link drug use to September 11 (also a company I won’t be patronizing anytime soon).
Tandy’s tenure got off to an awkward start when medical marijuana activist and post-polio patient Suzanne Pfeil attempted to give her a letter at her confirmation hearings in 2003. Pfeil became an activist after she was awoken in 2002 by DEA agents raiding the treatment facility where she was staying. She opened her eyes to see assault weapons pointed at her head. When the agents ordered her to stand, Pfeil, a paraplegic, replied that she couldn’t. So they cuffed her hands behind her back and left her on the bed for hours.
When Pfeil tried to give Tandy a letter detailing her ordeal, Tandy rather ungracefully ducked out a back door, then fled down a Capitol Hill hallway as Pfeil followed in her motorized wheelchair.
Tandy also presided over much of the DEA’s painkiller witch-hunt. Her tenure included the debacle where the DEA graciously agreed to post a set of guidelines doctors could follow when prescribing opiods to ensure they were complying with the law, but then pulled the guidelines down when lawyers for pain specialist Dr. William Hurwitz attempted to use them in his defense against drug trafficking charges. Under Tandy, pain patients and their doctors would get no quarter. The law would be whatever the DEA said it was, and the agency reserved the right to change what the law would be on a case-by-case basis.
Tandy once sent a letter to the editor in reply to an op-ed I wrote on the painkiller issue. I took apart her reply line-by-line here.
But if I had to name just one "highlight" of Tandy’s reign at the DEA, I’d have to go with her spirited defense of alcohol prohibition, which in itself says a lot about how she approached the drug war.
Given the nature of the job, I doubt the next DEA administrator will be any better than Tandy. But you really couldn’t do much worse.
One other notable item from the Washington Post article linked above—we now have DEA agents in 85 countries around the world.