It seems that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his cronies at the DEA are fully prepared to break federal law if it means having an easier time prosecuting cases involving people who manufacture, traffic and use pharmaceutical substances for recreational purposes.
A recent report from NPR indicates the DEA is looking to hire a legion of special prosecutors to put more drug offenders in prison. The agency said it will employ around 20 new law enforcement hammers with the authority to “represent the United States in criminal and civil proceedings before the courts and apply for various legal orders."
Although the DEA’s hunt for a special team of prosecutors may not sound like anything to worry about, policy experts say there is actually plenty of reason for concern.
Not only is this the first time the DEA has sought to staff its own group of legal eagles specifically designated to punish drug-related cases, but there is apparently controversy over the manner in which the agency intends to pay for this new justice league.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), it is against federal law for DEA to dip into Diversion Control funds for the sake of prosecuting drug cases without first obtaining congressional approval.
That’s because these funds, which are paid in by the pharmaceutical industry, are to be used to “prevent, detect, and investigate the redirection from legitimate channels of controlled pharmaceuticals,” not pay for prosecutors.
Michael Collins, deputy director with the DPA, who says the plan "exceeds DEA's authority under federal law,” called the move a “power grab” intended “to end-run the congressional appropriations process.”
"If the Sessions DOJ wants to abandon criminal justice reform, and escalate the war on drugs, that conversation should happen above board and in public; not in some arcane rulemaking document that very few people read or understand,” Collins said.
DEA says it will use Diversion Control funds in an attempt to curb the nationwide opioid crisis.
"We're losing 90 people a day to opioids and about 140 a day to drugs altogether," DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told NPR. "It's pretty clear we've got to use the tools we have at our disposal to attack this. We've got to hold accountable the people who are facilitating addiction and heartache."
It is possible a lawsuit could be filed against the DEA if it insists on following through with its plan.