According to an in-depth analysis of the U.S.’s ongoing “war on drugs” published this week by Attn:, this well-worn cliche is actually at the heart of the nation’s anti-drug policies.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has a vested interest in the War on Drugs,” the article argues, because it “serves the criminal justice system on a financial level, allowing the agency to profit off enforcement through budget requests and a civil asset forfeiture program.”
Simply put, anti-drug laws just generate too much money for federal agencies like the DEA for the government to ever want to change them.
And marijuana plays a particularly unique role in all this.
As the DEA reports on its website, “marijuana is the only major drug of abuse grown within the U.S. border.” It is also, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports, “the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.”
Given its ubiquitousness—both regarding its production and its consumption—marijuana drums up a lot of money-making activity for the DEA.
In the first place, the DEA consistently uses marijuana as a reason for requesting increasingly large budgets from the federal government. In fact, the DEA has long used its Cannabis Eradication Program to request massive amounts of money from the government.
Fortunately, a handful of federal lawmakers has finally begun calling for the defunding of the Cannabis Eradication Program.
These politicians have “proposed using the $23 million previously dedicated to the to address backlogs in rape kit testing, provide help to child abuse victims, and cover some of the cost of installing police body cams.”
Along with citing marijuana as a primary reason for requiring large amounts of federal funding, the DEA has also used marijuana as the pretext for seizing private funds and property under civil asset forfeiture laws.
Citing The Wall Street Journal, Attn: reports that “in 2014, the Department of Justice took in about $3.9 billion worth of civil asset forfeitures, more than doubling what the agency seized in 2005.”
“The DEA contributes to those funds by taking assets in suspected drug-related cases. A statistical report from the DEA’s 2014 fiscal year shows that it took more than $27 million is assets through the cannabis enforcement program alone.”
Under civil asset forfeiture laws, the only thing needed for a cop to legally steal a person’s money or property is an allegation that the property had been involved in the illegal activity; there’s no requirement that illicit drugs be produced, or that the claims are upheld in a court of law.
And because marijuana is such a widely used substance, it very often becomes the pretext under which law enforcement agents seize peoples’ property.
Whether it’s requesting additional funding or taking peoples’ money and ownership, the DEA makes a lot of money by enforcing anti-pot laws. From the agency’s perspective, any change to these laws represents a massive revenue cut—no wonder it’s so hard for the legalization movement to gain traction at the federal level.