Drug Enforcement Administration

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Drug Enforcement Administration
Administrator:Michele Leonhart
Year created:1973
Official website:Office website
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a United States agency formed in 1973 "to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States."[1][2] The agency was formed through an executive order signed by President Nixon in order to battle "an all-out global war on the drug menace."[2] The current administrator of the DEA is Michele Leonhart, who was confirmed by the Senate on December 22, 2010.[3]

The DEA employed over 10,000 people both in the U.S. and abroad in 2013.[3]


The Bureau of Internal Revenue was the first government agency charged with enforcing federal drug laws in 1915. Enforcement changed hands over the following decades, including the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, until President Nixon deemed the issue to be problematic enough to create the Drug Enforcement Administration by signing an executive order in 1973. That year, the agency consisted of 1,470 agents with a budget of $74.9 million. By two years later, the agency had nearly doubled with 2,135 agents with a budget of $140.9 million.[2]

In 1975, President Ford established the Domestic Council Drug Abuse Task Force, which reported attention should be focused on the highly addictive drugs, concluding the marijuana and cocaine were of little or no concern compared to heroin and amphetamines. Still, the DEA continued to crack down on all drug smuggling operations. In 1981, with pressure from President Carter, the Model Act, banning drug paraphernalia, began to pass in state legislatures.[2]

The Colombian drug trade, in particular the Medellin cartel, took off in the early 1980s, focusing more attention on halting marijuana and cocaine smuggling. A number of large operations, including Operation Grouper, Operation Tiburon and Operation Swordfish, resulting in millions of pounds of marijuana and hundreds of thousands of pounds of cocaine being seized by the DEA. The DEA and President Reagan saw an opportunity to attack the drug problem in a different way in 1983, when Reagan started National Drug Abuse Education and Prevention Week, seeking to lower the demand for drugs in the U.S.[2]

By the mid-1980s, the evolution of cocaine into crack cocaine lowered the price of the drug and raised the purity level, making it in high demand and easily accessible. While the Medellin cartel dominated the southern United States in the cocaine trade, the Cali mafia began to take hold of the trade in the northeastern U.S., and crime rates related to crack cocaine began to skyrocket across the country. The 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act began enforcing mandatory prison sentences for large-scale marijuana distributors as well as increases in other penalties for drug trafficking. The 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act created the Office of National Drug Control Policy led by the "drug czar," charged with establishing and accomplishing long term drug enforcement goals.[2]

Pablo Escobar, the head of the Medellin cartel was jailed in Colombia and later died in a standoff after escaping custody. His death led to the decline of the cartel in the early 1990s, allowing the DEA to focus fewer resources on cocaine smuggling from Colombia and more toward heroin smuggling from southeast Asia and methamphetamine from Mexico. In 1995, the leaders of the Cali mafia were arrested and the drug trade from south of the U.S. border shifted from Colombia to Mexico.[2]

Mobile Enforcement Teams (MET) were established in 1995 because local police departments both had too few resources to effectively enforce the laws and were too recognizable to those in the drug trade. METs were trained and equipped to deal with larger scale drug busts and investigations. Between 1999 and 2003, the METs had been deployed in 380 locations across the country.[2]

Measures aimed at legalizing medicinal marijuana began appearing more frequently on ballots across the United States. Eight of the eleven ballot measures put forward to legalize medical marijuana in the 1990s passed. California was the first such instance in 1996 with Proposition 215. In 2012, Colorado and Washington passed measures legalizing recreational marijuana. The passage of these measures created conflict between the DEA, charged with enforcing federal drug laws and medical marijuana businesses that were legal under state laws.[2]



The official DEA mission statement is as follows:

The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States; and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.[4]



Michele Leonhart is the current administrator of the DEA.

Note: Votes marked "N/A" represent voice votes or unrecorded votes. Missing votes will be filled as they are researched.

Organizational chart

Dea org chart.jpg

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See also

External links