Bidens DEA Pick Anne Milgram & Cannabis Implications

President Biden named Anne Milgram head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the White House announced on Monday, April 12.

If confirmed, Milgram will report directly to Biden’s Attorney General (AG) election, Merrick Garland, who was ratified by the Senate on March 10th. Both Garland and Milgram have largely neglected to speak out publicly on the legalization of cannabis, but they have not been actively involved in offending cannabis, a step further than Trump-appointed officials, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who ran the Cole in 2018 Memo after years of publicly criticizing any form of cannabis reform.

Photo by Don MacKinnon / Stringer via Getty Images

Founded in 1973 under President Nixon, the DEA is a federal law enforcement agency reporting to the US Department of Justice and tasked with implementing and enforcing the DEA Controlled Substances Act. The agency is responsible for coordinating and conducting US drug investigations and plays an important role in determining the planned substances. It’s no surprise that the DEA – the agency at the forefront of the war on drugs – has long been at odds with cannabis legalization and reform. However, it is a welcome surprise to have a head of the agency who may change their minds.


Anne Milgram served as the New Jersey Attorney General from 2007 to 2010. She was only 36 when she accepted the job. In a popular 2013 Ted Talk titled “Why Smart Statistics Are Key To Crime Fighting,” Milgram discussed her data-driven approach as New Jersey’s top law enforcement officer:

“It turns out that most of the big law enforcement agencies like mine haven’t been pursuing the things that matter,” she says in her talk. “We didn’t share data or use analytics to make better decisions and reduce crime.” Under her direction, the New Jersey AG office collected and analyzed years of case data. “What we found wasn’t good,” she said. “We committed most of the low-level drug offenses right on the street. [The] The reason we detain low level nonviolent people and release dangerous high risk people is because we don’t have an objective measure of risk. “

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During her tenure as New Jersey AG, Milgram overtook the Camden, New Jersey Police Department through data, innovative thinking, and a firm belief that a community knows best what it needs to be safe. Most recently, she discussed her data-centric work in a June 2020 CNN Op Ed, written shortly after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin brutally killed George Floyd and while the nation broke out over a debate about revolutionizing community security .

Since 2010, Milgram – who lives in New York, the youngest state to legalize a recreational adult marijuana market – has been a professor at NYU’s School of Law, where she heads the criminal justice innovation lab. A lot of their projects focus on keeping the wrong people out of jail. Until her appointment she was also busy moderating the podcast CAFÉ Insider (café.com) together with Preet Bharara, on which the duo debates politically charged legal issues.

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In a 2019 series by Ceiling Smashers, Market Watch wrote that Milgram says her personal mission is to create avenues for less crime and less incarceration, which means rethinking public safety. “There is no system more old-fashioned and broken and problematic than the criminal justice system,” she said. “There are amazing people in it, but as a system it doesn’t work the way it should.”

The Dea still doesn't acknowledge all the good things marijuana offersPhoto by Eric Kayne / Stringer / Getty Images


Anne Milgram didn’t say much about cannabis on the file. In 2009, she weighed a New Jersey bill to legalize medical marijuana. She called the bill “workable,” which means a little more in 2009, three years before a state legalized adult cannabis than it does today. In the past 11 years, Milgram hasn’t added much to the cannabis legalization discourse. Milgram’s awe and trust in data, however, could indicate that she will be a welcome DEA leader for cannabis stakeholders, as the data on the DEA points to borrowing a phrase from Milgram: “A system that doesn’t work the way it should run. “

Here is some data summarized in Fresh Toast by GLLG attorney Daniel Shortt:

“The drug problem in the US has not improved and is much worse today than it was when the DEA was founded. In 1973, 1.1 out of 100,000 deaths in the US were attributed to accidental overdoses. In 2018, the CDC reported that 19.1 out of 100,000 were due to accidental overdoses. Drug War Facts reports that 328,670 of a total of 9,027,700 drugs were arrested in 1973, representing 3.6% of all drug arrests. In 2018 there were an estimated 1,654,282 drug arrests of 10,310,960 [total,] 6% of all arrests. “

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None of these overdose deaths were caused by cannabis. However, the Pew Research Center reports that 40% of all drug arrests are cannabis-related. If Milgram’s personal mission is to reduce crime and incarceration, it could have an immediate impact by diverting the DEA’s resources from cannabis-related crimes and shifting that focus to the manufacture and distribution of deadly opioids.

Illinois Pot Offenders How To Get Your Marijuana Offense Wiped CleanPhoto by FatCamera / Getty Images

Milgram is also important to the cannabis community, as reported by Marijuana Moment. If this is confirmed, it will take up the cloak of multiple lawsuits from cannabis and psychedelic advocates and patients. A coalition of scientists and veterans in particular sued the DEA in 2020 on the grounds that the legal basis on which the DEA continued to classify marijuana as Appendix I was unconstitutional.


The cannabis community and the DEA have long been at odds over the unjust war on drugs, and it is rare for an appointment to this agency to offer a glimmer of hope.

The most promising aspect of Milgram’s appointment for those seeking a future with nationwide legal cannabis markets isn’t necessarily that she once called New Jersey’s MMJ program “workable.” It is that she has demonstrated a prudent use of science and logic against the historical status quo in policing and other areas. Let’s hope she brings the same to the DEA.

The Green Light Law Group will follow Milgram’s Senate confirmation hearing (not scheduled as of this post) and report on relevant comments after responding to inevitable questions about marijuana.

Steph Barnhart is a legal and marketing assistant for the Green Light Law Group and studied journalism at Concordia College. Stephen is not a lawyer. You can contact Steph at or 503-488-5424.

This post originally appeared in the Green Light Law Group.

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