The DEA spent $18 million in taxpayer funds last year seeking out and destroying cannabis plants, according to new numbers released by the agency.
The money was part of the DEA’s Cannabis Eradication Program.
According to the DEA’s report, the funds were dispersed among 128 local and state law enforcement agencies. Those agencies then used the money to fund their efforts to search out and destroy illegal cannabis plants.
In many places, the program helps pay for aerial operations that often include expensive helicopters looking for cannabis grow sites from the sky.
Every state in the country except for Colorado and Alaska accepted funds through the program. But even those states continued looking for illegal cannabis grows, they just spent their own funds doing it.
Throughout 2015 authorities destroyed 4.1 million cannabis plants. That works out to be $4.42 per plant.
The Cannabis Eradication Program came under fire late last year when lawmakers pushed to cut DEA funding for the project. The proposal called for using the money for other programs like domestic violence prevention.
The proposal was eventually unsuccessful and the Cannabis Eradication Program continued to receive its regular budget.
In fact, the new numbers show just how little has changed with the program.
Last year’s $18 million was right on par with its 2014 budget. And the cost-per-plant actually went up a little bit in 2015.
In 2014 the DEA spent an average of $4.20 per cannabis plant it destroyed, which is $0.22 cheaper than what it cost the agency in 2015.
But critics of the program continue to say it’s a misuse of resources. Many claim that the money used to search out and kill cannabis plants could be better spent on other efforts.
“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,” said California Representative Ted Lieu.
Lieu led the effort last fall to de-fund the DEA’s program.
“I will continue to fight against DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication Program in Congress and work to redirect these funds to worthwhile programs,” he added.
Earlier this month the DEA announced that it is thinking about whether or not to make any changes to the way it classifies cannabis.
If the DEA considers rescheduling cannabis it could have huge implications for the legal status of the drug.