The crooked establishment of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration stands to be ripped to shreds in the coming weeks if Congress decides to move forward with amendments aimed at rendering Uncle Sam’s high henchmen without the funds to enforce laws against the cannabis plant.
Last week, just as an angry lynch mob of activists and patients from across the nation marched up to the steps of DEA headquarters to rattle the cage of acting chief Chuck Rosenberg for calling medical marijuana “a joke,” Congressman Ted Lieu and an influential band of federal lawmakers submitted a letter to congressional leadership begging for their assistance in castrating the drug agency’s infamous Cannabis Eradication & Suppression Program.
Although marijuana is legal in some fashion in over half the United States, the DEA still receives in upwards of $18 million per year so that soldiers of the drug war can pull weeds across Northern America. However, a number of lawmakers have suggested that the budget for this program be cut in half, with the $9 million trimmed from the agency’s piggy bank being tossed into programs to help victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
“The Cannabis Eradication Program’s sole mission is to eradicate marijuana plants and arrest growers,” reads the letter signed by 12 Members of Congress. “However, historical data indicates that the vast majority of plants seized under this program are wild plants descendant from industrial hemp. There is no justification for spending this kind of money on an antiquated program never shown to be effective.”
The DEA is on the verge of becoming public enemy #1 in the eyes of federal lawmakers. In fact, Uncle Sam’s drug enforcers almost inevitability sealed their fate earlier this year, when a report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General revealed that drug agents had been engaging in “sex parties” paid for by the very cartels they are supposed to be combating. To make things worse, it was later revealed that most of the agents involved in this highly publicized scandal went mostly unpunished.
It was ultimately this level of arrogance, dictated under the control of then DEA administrator Michelle Leonhart, which struck a war nerve inside the nation’s capital and forced the congressional brass to start foaming at the mouth at the thought of paying for rascally indiscretions. Eventually, the heat surrounding this issue raged into a towering inferno and the Obama Administration was forced to step in to strong arm Leonhart into retirement – a move that was, by all accounts, long overdue.
Then, over the summer, the House of Representatives took the DEA’s spanking a step further by getting behind a number of proposals aimed at hacking the agency’s operational budget to pieces. One of the most appreciated amendments to garner House approval was Congressman Lieu’s plan to reallocate $9 million from the DEA’s cannabis eradication program to fund programs for abused Americans.
“This is a ridiculous waste of precious federal resources, especially when multiple states and jurisdictions have already legalized marijuana,” Lieu said. “It is time for the federal government to stop making marijuana use or possession a federal crime.”
The letter sent out last week to Speaker Paul Ryan and other congressional gatekeepers was a last minute plea in getting Lieu’s amendment attached to the 2016 Fiscal Year budget currently being negotiated by the House and Senate.
Other proposed trimmings to the DEA’s budget, which could also be included the new federal spending bill, is one aimed at shutting down the agency’s bulk data collection program as well as three additional measures that would prohibit the Justice Department from interfering in states that have legalized marijuana and industrial hemp. Some of these amendments will simply need to be renewed from last year, while the plot to overthrow the DEA’s marijuana eradication program still needs some finessing.
Unfortunately, even if Congress gets behind efforts to shut down the DEA’s antiquated drug enforcement tactics, there is a distinct possibility that these amendments will do nothing to actually bring the agency’s actions to a screeching halt. Last year, Congress passed the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which technically should have prevented the Justice Department from spending federal tax dollars to go after the medical marijuana community. However, the DEA has continued to unleash its wrath against dispensaries and patients for most of 2015.
Therefore, all of the campaigning to cripple the DEA’s budget could be for nothing, but the lessons learned from last year’s debacle could give way to tighter language that is not so easily open to vague interpretations.
Congress has until December 11 to assemble a new spending package. A collective $23 million stands to be removed from the DEA’s disposal if all the proposed amendments are included.