By MICHAEL HEDGES
WASHINGTON - Like most mothers with teenage daughters, Karen Tandy worries about her children's possible exposure to illicit narcotics.
But the Hurst native and Texas Tech University law school grad is uniquely positioned to do something about those concerns as the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
"It is every parent's worst nightmare," she said of the prospect of drug abuse.
"I have two teenaged daughters and I'm no different than any other parent — I worry about my kids. They are great kids, but peer pressure can be a big issue."
Her use of maternal instinct may partly explain why during her 32 months as DEA chief, Tandy has been an unapologetic advocate for tough enforcement of laws against marijuana, a substance critics say is less destructive than heroin or cocaine.
"We have more teens in (counseling) for marijuana than for all other drugs combined, including alcohol," she said recently in her office in the agency's northern Virginia headquarters.
She spoke the truth in the above quote but then someone went back and added a word to try to disguise the true meaning.
Her attitude has angered cannabis advocates and others, who accuse Tandy of over-zealousness in dealing with issues such as medical marijuana use.
She drew fire last year from pro-pot groups and others for her handling of the prosecution of Marc Emery, a Canadian who has been charged with selling marijuana seeds across the border into the Pacific Northwest.
Accused of interference
Joel Connelly, a columnist with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, needled Tandy for what he said was a clumsy interference that made Emery a minor martyr in Canada, where pot laws are more lenient.
"She came here and big-footed the local prosecutors in the worst sense of that term," Connelly said in a telephone interview.
Tandy, 52, shrugged off the criticism.
"I think you'd have to look at the amount of seeds he is charged with supplying to the U.S. that were grown and abused," she said of Emery. "What is of greatest concern to me is the havoc wreaked when kids who have been smoking marijuana get behind the wheel."
Regardless of the occasional critic's shot, Tandy retains her passion for running the government's largest anti-drug bureaucracy — the kind of job that can be stressful and emotionally exhausting.
"This job is a calling, not just for me but for all of the 11,000 people in this agency. I have the best job on Earth," she said.
The public feuding between Tandy and Emery has reached a fever pitch. These two really need to get a room.