Last year the Drug Enforcement Administration spent some $14 million on cannabis plant eradication programs across the country. Belatedly some members of Congress are realizing that money could likely be spent better…well, in any other way.
This would be true if the money was actually being used efficiently for its stated purpose, but in many cases the money is being completely wasted.
Recently released federal documents show that, for example, the DEA gave the state of New Hampshire $20,000 in 2015, which resulted in a grand total of 27 marijuana plants being eradicated. Things were even worse in Utah, where $73,000 in taxpayer money resulted in zero plants being eradicated.
Yes, ZERO. For $73,000 you think they would have stumbled upon at least one grow room. In fact, they could have bought $73,000 worth of marijuana and burned it in a field and gotten much better results from their point of view.
But as I said, even if used efficiently, these funds are a waste of resources considering what little difference they make in the supply of illegal marijuana and especially considering the fact that there may be 9 states that allow recreational marijuana growing, sales and possession by next year.
To be fair, some states are better at others at eradicating cannabis plants; California, of course, leading the way with more than 2 and a half million plants destroyed in 2015. Surprisingly, the state of Kentucky came in second with about 570,000 plants pulled. CA gets over $5 million from the DEA and KY gets almost $2 million, meaning those 2 states account for about half of the DEA funds.
Perhaps even more surprising is the $760,000 being spent in Washington state to eradicate cannabis plants, the same Washington State that legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and now sells it in storefronts across the state.
Sure, $14 million may not seem like a lot of money in the grand scheme of the monumental amount of money the government wastes or just flat out loses track of every year, but that doesn’t mean that money wouldn’t be better used elsewhere. Waste in the federal government has to be tackled starting somewhere, why not start with the DEA?
“It makes zero sense for the federal government to continue to spend taxpayer dollars on cannabis eradication at a time when states across the country are looking to legalize marijuana,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-CA, told The Washington Post. “I will continue to fight against DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program in Congress and work to redirect these funds to worthwhile programs.”
Legalization in the states is great, but real and lasting change will not be possible without a change in federal laws and policies.