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DEA scrutinized for wasteful marijuana raids in legalized states

January 10, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
DEA scrutinized for wasteful marijuana raids in legalized states

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is being scrutinized for marijuana raids in states where it is legal, leading lawmakers to protest that the agency’s eradication program is wasting millions of dollars provided by taxpayers.

The DEA was granted $14 million during the last fiscal year for its national marijuana-eradication program, the Washington Post reported.

Among the recipients of the program was the state of Utah, which received $73,000 in funds for marijuana eradication. Interestingly, however, not a single marijuana plant was discovered by agents there. New Hampshire was allotted $20,000, and officers recovered a single outdoor grow site with 27 plants.

In October, eight members of Congress drafted a letter to the Government Accountability Office explaining the wastefulness of the eradication program.

“While the DEA’s Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program has been in effect for three decades, the trend in state laws to legalize and decriminalize distribution or consumption of marijuana calls into question the necessity of such a program,” the letter read.

Financial records obtained by the Seattle Times show the DEA’s program in Washington state, where marijuana was legalized in 2012 for recreational use, which was the fourth-largest beneficiary of funding at $760,000.

Financing in Washington state has declined 28% over the last three years from about $1.1 million, but cuts are greater in other states where the drug has been legalized.

State police in Washington said meager growing operations are not their average target. In 2015, agents destroyed 609 plants; the average national rate is 519. In 2016, the number of busts shot up to 57,000 plants, representing a 63% increase.

Authorities attribute the increase to Mexican drug cartels, which have transported their marijuana enterprises north of the border where the climate allows for higher-quality plants.

Lieutenant Chris Sweet of the Washington state police said the cartels operate on “swaths of private land, in mountainous regions, where detection of crops is difficult.”

The DEA’s eradication program received damaging national attention when in September of 2016, agents dispatched a helicopter, a convoy of police vehicles, state police officials, and National Guard troops to ambush the residence of an 81-year-old woman in Massachusetts to find only one marijuana plant growing in her backyard.

One of the signers of the Congressional letter was Representative Ted Lieu, of California, who proposed legislation that would have funding to the program cut by half, but there was no support.

Lieu’s proposal had appeared before citizens of California approved Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use, and allowances for up to six plants at home. However, no one will be able to legally purchase recreational pot until 2018.

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