Lawmakers want to defund the DEA’s marijuana eradication program

Is the DEA’s marijuana eradication program worth the $14 million to fund annually? Here’s a look at some numbers

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Published: Oct 10, 2016, 6:33 am • Updated: about 5 hours ago Comments (1)

By Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post

In 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration gave $20,000 to the state of New Hampshire to eradicate marijuana plants, according to federal documents. But the Granite State’s law enforcement agencies didn’t have much luck finding any weed to pull that year – their efforts uncovered a single outdoor grow site with a grand total of 27 plants.

Do the math, and U.S. taxpayers paid $740.74 for each pot plant uprooted in New Hampshire that year.

That’s an expensive weeding operation, but it could be worse. Utah received $73,000 in marijuana eradication funds, according to the federal documents, obtained by journalist Drew Atkins as part of a FOIA request. But agents failed to find a single pot plant to eradicate.

The DEA’s $14 million marijuana eradication program has been the subject of a fair amount of criticism in recent years. Twelve members of Congress have pushed to eliminate the program and use the money instead to fund domestic-violence prevention and deficit-reduction programs.

Its purpose is to “halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States,” a mission that has become complicated as more states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana programs. Several more states have similar measures on the ballot this year.

DEA records show the program has been effective in some states, most notably California. Agents pulled 2.6 million marijuana plants in 2015, seizing more than 1,600 weapons in the process. Nearly $5.4 million was funneled into that state’s program.

Kentucky’s $1.9-million program had the next largest number of eradicated plants, more than 570,000.

Nationwide, the DEA documents show that spending on the program has shrunk from about $18 million in 2014 to $14 million in the current fiscal year. Some states – including Alaska, Colorado and Vermont – stopped receiving eradication funds completely.

California, where medical marijuana is legal, receives the lion’s share of marijuana eradication funds, in part because the “Emerald Triangle” region of Northern California. The area has long been home to many of the state’s legal and quasi-legal marijuana production operations, but law enforcement authorities have maintained that it also has been a haven for the grow operations of Mexican drug cartels.

Kentucky also receives a large amount of money to eradicate marijuana. The state has a surprisingly rich culture of marijuana cultivation.

Related: Meet Patrick Moen, the first-ever DEA official to defect to the marijuana industry

Rounding out the top 5 marijuana eradication states are Tennessee, Georgia and, perhaps unexpectedly, Washington. The aptly nicknamed Evergreen State legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, and pot shops opened for business in 2014. So it may seem odd that the DEA is spending $760,000 this year to eradicate pot plants in the state.

But Washington is the only recreational marijuana state that doesn’t allow people to grow their own plants for recreational use. (In District of Columbia, incidentally, the situation is reversed: Homegrows are okay, but you can’t buy weed at the store.)

Washington also receives more marijuana eradication money than any other state with a recreational pot regime in place. Oregon received $200,000 this year, while Colorado and Alaska didn’t take any federal money for marijuana eradication.

New Hampshire, Louisiana, Delaware, Utah and New Jersey all spent well over $100 for every marijuana plant eradicated. Eleven states spent at least $50 per plant, while nearly half of the states – 23 of them – spent at least $25 in federal money for each marijuana plant they eliminated.

At the other end of the spectrum, states with big investments in marijuana eradication – like California and Kentucky – also had the most successful efforts to pull up large numbers of pot plants. So their per-plant costs are much lower.

To be perfectly clear, even in a fully legal, highly regulated market like Colorado’s there will be a need to enforce prohibitions on large-scale, unlicensed marijuana grows – similar to the way the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms busts illegal home alcohol distilleries. Beyond that, authorities often make a number of arrests at cultivation sites, or seize weapons and other property from people suspected of involvement with marijuana grow operations.

Still, some lawmakers are starting to question the need dedicated this level or resources to eliminating pot plants when so many states are relaxing their own restrictions.

“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-Calif., told me earlier this year. “I will continue to fight against DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program in Congress and work to redirect these funds to worthwhile programs.”

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Five Washington State Medical Marijuana Patients Face Federal Trials

Prosecutions contradict Obama Administration statements, policy against targeting sick patients

SPOKANE, WA — Family members from a rural area of eastern Washington are expected to go to trial next month on federal marijuana charges, despite the Obama Administration’s repeated claims that it does not target seriously ill patients.

The federal trial of the “Kettle Falls 5″ is scheduled for May 12th, pending several pretrial motions which will be heard on April 22nd before U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle in Spokane, Washington. Because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law, patients like the “Kettle Falls 5″ are typically prohibited from raising a medical necessity or state law defense in federal court.

Federal agents raided the property of Larry Harvey, 70, and his wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 55, at their rural family home near Kettle Falls, Washington in August 2012.

Federal agents raided the property of Washington State medical marijuana patients Larry Harvey, 70, and his wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 55, at their rural family home near Kettle Falls, Washington in August 2012.

Federal agents raided the property of Larry Harvey, 70, and his wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 55, at their rural family home near Kettle Falls, Washington in August 2012.

In addition to seizing 44 premature marijuana plants, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confiscated the family’s 2007 Saturn Vue, $700 in cash, medicated cookies and marijuana stored in the family freezer, along with legally owned firearms.

The five federal defendants, including Mrs. Firestack-Harvey’s son, Rolland Gregg, and daughter-in-law, were all qualified patients in compliance with Washington state law. Defense attorneys say the cannabis being cultivated on a remote corner of the family’s 33-acre property was strictly for personal use.

Nevertheless, Mr. Harvey, who suffers from numerous ailments including heart disease and severe gout, was jailed for several days and denied medical attention, which resulted in irreversible bodily harm.

The imminent and rare federal trial comes after two Department of Justice (DOJ) directives were issued in June 2011 and August 2013, both of which underscore that individual patients are excluded from the agency’s enforcement strategy. In the latest memorandum, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole claimed that it was “not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on seriously ill individuals.”

However, shortly before the raid on the Harvey home, U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Washington Michael Ormsby stated his intent to “vigorously” target individuals “even if such activities are permitted under state law.”

“This case is another glaring example of what’s wrong with the federal policy on cannabis,” said Kari Boiter, a supporter of the “Kettle Falls 5″ and the Washington State Coordinator with Americans for Safe Access, the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group. “If the Justice Department can continue to aggressively prosecute individual patients without any consequences from the White House, none of these DOJ memos are worth the paper they’re printed on.”

Notably, these federal prosecutions of individual patients continue even after Washington voters approved Initiative 502 in November 2012, legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the state.

Nevertheless, the “Kettle Falls 5″ were indicted in February 2013 and charged with six felonies each: conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, manufacture of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

 

By Americans for Safe Access April 22, 2014

 

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Pot Block! Trapped in the Marijuana Rescheduling Maze

One citizen-journalist’s journey into the drug war bureaucracy shows why previous efforts to reschedule pot have been DEA’d on arrival.

Harmon Leon

October 30, 2013

 

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Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug in America. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Cannabis sativa is as dangerous as heroin. (You know… as in heroin!) To justify this ranking, the DEA has declared that the plant has absolutely no medical value. Zero. Nada. Zip. The federal government has determined that this position is backed by science.

Marijuana’s current status as one of the most dangerous drugs in America became official in 1970, during the Nixon administration. (Putting matters in ludicrous perspective, cocaine and even Breaking Bad meth are Schedule II.) Every administration since then has treated marijuana as mad, bad and dangerous to know, with virtually no attempt made to reclassify it. And that list includes the current one.

About the Author
Harmon Leon

Harmon Leon is the author of six books, including The American Dream, The Harmon Chronicles and Republican Like Me. His…

“It’s a bit of an Alice in Wonderland scenario with the Obama administration,” explains Kris Hermes of American for Safe Access (ASA). “He made statements prior to being elected about changing the policy on marijuana, but in reality the opposite has happened.”

Not only have there been more medical marijuana arrests during Obama’s administration than the entire Bush regime, but even in states like California and Washington, there’s been a steady rise in the number of people being raided even though they’re in full compliance with state law. The federal government has threatened landlords and financial institutions working with medical marijuana businesses; the IRS has been involved with audits; pro-pot lawmakers have been bullied; and veterans using marijuana for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder have been denied medical benefits by the Veterans Administration—all because of marijuana’s Schedule I status.

On the other hand, dropping pot down a notch to Schedule II (let alone III, IV or V, or removing it from the Controlled Substances Act completely) would be a big step in resolving the clash between state and federal law, since such a move would at least acknowledge marijuana’s medical utility and allow doctors to legally prescribe it.

So what can be done to reschedule marijuana in a country where the “drug czar” is required by law to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a Schedule I substance—in any form?

Time to put on our citizen-journalist’s hat and go through the looking glass into the bizarre legal labyrinth of the rescheduling process. Kris Hermes warned that it wouldn’t be easy: “Bureaucrats shut down and refuse to talk when it’s convenient for them not to talk… when it suits their purpose!”

I Contact the DEA

Phoning the DEA is an unnerving experience—a sensation similar to being in high school and calling your dad at 2 am to inform him that you’ve crashed the family car (though now safe in the knowledge that the NSA will keep tabs on me).

I get a DEA representative on the phone. He goes by the name Rusty. (Perhaps because of his employer’s corroded views on ending the drug war?)

“Could I get any information regarding the rescheduling of medical marijuana?”

“I don’t want to spark a debate,” Rusty from the DEA replies. “I don’t know if that’s something we’d weigh in on. I don’t know what the point would be—our stance is pretty much on our website.”

Rusty from the DEA informs me that the agency’s position on medical marijuana can be found under the tab astutely labeled “The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse.” (The thirty-page PDF reads like some bureaucrat’s idea for a remake of Reefer Madness.)

The key words in this manifesto: dangers, consequences, abuse. That doesn’t seem to indicate much willingness to consider pot’s medical value. Apparently, the DEA is still convinced that cancer victims are merely “abusing” marijuana to alleviate their chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea.

Rusty from the DEA adds: “You know, Congress can change this at any point—which people seem to forget.”

Perfect. That would be the same body that recently shut down the federal government and threatened the United States with default. But while the DEA might say that rescheduling is up to Congress, according to the ASA, that’s not exactly the case. The DEA actually delays the process—with no time limit imposed for answering rescheduling petitions, the agency takes the longest possible time before reaching a decision. (And then it says no.) To get around to denying the ASA’s rescheduling petition, it took the federal government a whopping nine years.

I Contact the FDA

According to a memorandum of understanding between the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration, a rescheduling petition has to go through the FDA. (Despite the fact that the DEA is under no obligation to recognize the conclusions of that agency.) Meanwhile, roughly every nineteen minutes, an American dies of accidental prescription-drug overdose—and these are pills approved by the FDA. (“Approved!”) Since the big pharmaceutical companies can’t make money off homegrown medical marijuana, might that be swaying the FDA’s recommendation?

“Can I ask a few questions about the rescheduling of medical marijuana?” I ask an unnamed FDA representative.

“I’m looking into this for you,” she replies.

Moments later…

“We cannot comment on this topic due to pending citizen petitions, other than to say our analyses and decision-making processes are ongoing.”

Not much to work with there, though I’m intrigued by the mention of “pending citizen petitions.” I press on: “What would be the process needed for medical marijuana to be approved by the FDA?”

“As you are aware, Schedule 1 drugs have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and as I indicated before, we cannot comment on this topic of rescheduling due to pending citizen petitions.”

My information parade has been rained out. Why so cagey? After all, the FDA approved Marinol, whose active ingredient is 100 percent synthetic THC (i.e., the stuff that makes pot so dangerous and addictive that it has to be classified as Schedule I). And Marinol, strangely enough, is Schedule III—even though no pot plant in the history of marijuana has tested at 100 percent THC. (Even the strongest pot these days clocks in at under 40 percent.)

So my basic question goes unanswered, though the FDA representative does grant me an open invitation to check out the agency’s website—anytime I please!

My inquiry at the Justice Department yields similar results: “Hi Harmon—DOJ’s enforcement policy on marijuana is in the attached. Thanks.”

My attempt at securing a comment from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals—which threw out the ASA’s appeal on its rescheduling petition—doesn’t go much better: “I’m sorry. I don’t know the answer to your question. I am sure there must be subject matter experts out there who would know.… Good luck!”

Down and Down the Rabbit Hole…

At the heart of the approval process is the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Ironically—or maybe not—the organization is funded by the federal government. Catch-22: for the DEA to reschedule marijuana, scientific studies authorized by NIDA have to prove its medical benefits. This is basically like putting the mice in charge of the mousey snacks. In his now-famous about-face on medical marijuana, Dr. Sanjay Gupta pointed out how many of NIDA’s studies are actually designed to find detrimental effects—with only about 6 percent, he estimates, looking into medical benefits. The end result of NIDA’s efforts: the almost-complete suppression of research into the therapeutic value of marijuana.

“Will Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s statement have any impact on rescheduling medical marijuana?” I ask the NIDA rep.

NIDA’s response: “The best resource for questions about rescheduling is the Drug Enforcement Administration.” (A phone number is provided.)

Reaching deep into my citizen-journalist’s bag of tricks, I try a more straightforward approach: “What would it take to have medical marijuana rescheduled? Clearly we’re at a crossroads where public opinion is changing, yet the federal government doesn’t want to change its stance. Is it left to further scientific studies or any other factors?”

The Nation is facing a crippling postal rate hike—donate by October 31 to help us foot this $120,272 bill.

“You’ll need to contact the DEA for questions about rescheduling.”

And so I’m back at square one. It turns out that getting an answer from the federal government on rescheduling marijuana is a lot like contacting the local Scientology center and asking them to go on record about the planet Xenu. In the meantime, the Supreme Court recently declined to hear ASA’s appeal on its rescheduling petition—the one that the DEA waited nine years to reject, and that the DC Circuit Court turned down on appeal, declaring that only Congress has the power to amend the Controlled Substances Act.

If the federal government is determined to maintain marijuana as a highly illegal Schedule 1 substance—despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary and an ongoing sea change in public opinion—then perhaps its best ploy at this point would be to sit on its hands and do absolutely nothing.

Mission accomplished.

Also In This Issue

Katrina vanden Heuvel: “Why Its Always Been Time to Legalize Marijuana

Mike Riggs: “Obama’s War on Pot

Carl L. Hart: “Pot Reform’s Race Problem

Harry Levine: “The Scandal of Racist Marijuana Possession Arrests—and Why We Must Stop Them

Martin A. Lee: “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom: The Populist Politics of Cannabis Reform

Martin A. Lee: “The Marijuana Miracle: Why a Single Compound in Cannabis May Revolutionize Modern Medicine

Kristen Gwynne: “Can Medical Marijuana Survive in Washington State?

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian: “Baking Bad: A Potted History of High Times

Various Contributors: “The Drug War Touched My Life: Why I’m Fighting Back

And only online…

J. Hoberman: “The Cineaste’s Guide to Watching Movies While Stoned

Seth Zuckerman: “Is Pot-Growing Bad for the Environment?

Harmon Leon

October 30, 2013

CONTINUE READING…

The White House: Release and pardon Marc Emery

 
 
Christopher Seekins

Granby, CT

Some stand for freedom, others oppose it. Each brings us in a different direction. For those of us who enjoy our freedom we thank people like Marc who has a global vision of standards. The United states constitution was founded on common law jurisdiction. This is essentially a contract of protection for the people. The states of America have adapted the Uniform Commercial Code which governs international contracts of protection. The Uniform Commercial Code or UCC particular to 1-103.6 indicates statutory jurisdiction in Admiralty Courts such as the US courts must have standards in accordance with common law jurisdiction reserving rights and remedy there of. The ability to extort a person into a plea bargain is not merit to cause injury to Marcs life or take away the freedom from others lives that he generates living freely. Marcs actions have not hurt any one and there is no justification to injure many lives in this case. Marc amongst other things is to thank for bringing freedom of the press to Canada with the opening of his book store and petitioning of the public as true democracy makes possible. Marc is a patriot of every country and should be treated as such. To do anything else is of a criminal nature.

Release and pardon Marc Emery

Marc Emery is a Canadian businessman and political activist who owned and operated Cannabis Culture Magazine, Pot-TV, the BC Marijuana Party, and Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture Headquarters (previously the BCMP Bookstore, and HEMP BC before that.)
He was also the world’s most famous marijuana seed retailer and the biggest financial supporter of the marijuana movement world-wide until the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Canadian law enforcement arrested him in Canada and shut down Marc Emery Direct Seeds in July 2005.
Marc is currently imprisoned in Yazoo City medium-security prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi after being extradited on May 20th, 2010 by the Canadian government. He was sentenced on September 10th in Seattle federal court to 5 years in prison for “distribution of marijuana” seeds, though the US Drug Enforcement Administration admitted it was actually for his political activism and financing the marijuana movement (see below for that DEA document).

FACTS ABOUT MARC EMERY:

• Marc Emery is a Canadian citizen who never went to the USA as a seed seller.

• Marc Emery operated his seed business in Canada at all times, with no American branches or employees.

• Marc Emery declared his income from marijuana seed sales on his income tax, and paid over $580,000 to the Federal and Provincial governments from 1999 to 2005.

• Marc Emery is the leader of the British Columbia Marijuana Party, a registered political party that has regularly participated in elections.

• Marc Emery has never been arrested or convicted of manufacturing or distributing marijuana in Canada, as he only sold seeds.

• Marc Emery gave away all of the profits from his seed business to drug law reform lobbyists, political parties, global protests and rallies, court litigation, medical marijuana initiatives, drug rehabilitation clinics, and other legitimate legal activities and organizations.

• Marc Emery helped found the United States Marijuana Party, state-level political parties, and international political parties in countries such as Israel and New Zealand.

• Marc Emery has been known as a book seller and activist in Canada for 30 years, fighting against censorship laws and other social issues long before he became a drug law reform activist.

• Marc Emery has been a media figure for 20 years with regards to marijuana and drug law reform. He is very well-known to Canadian, American and international news media organizations.

• Marc Emery operated his business in full transparency and honesty since its inception in 1994, even sending his marijuana seed catalogue inside his magazine “Cannabis Culture” to each Member of Parliament in Canada every two months for years.

Marc openly ran “Marc Emery Direct Marijuana Seeds” from a store in downtown Vancouver and through mail-order from 1994 to 2005, with the goal to fund anti-prohibition and pro-marijuana activists and organizations across North America and the world.
Marc always paid all provincial and federal taxes on his income and made no secret to anyone of his seed-selling business. Marc was raided by police for selling seeds and bongs in 1996 and again in 1997 and 1998, but despite the seizure of his stock by police, the Canadian courts sentenced Emery only to fines and no jail time.
Canadian police then pressured the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to launch a cross-border attack against Marc. They arranged to have him charged under America’s much more severe laws against seeds.
Marc was arrested in Canada by American agents in 2005, and originally faced a minimum 30-year sentence in the US, with the possibility of life behind bars. After years of legal efforts, and ensuring his two co-accused received no prison time, Marc made a plea-bargain for a five-year sentence in the US. Marc had originally secured a deal with US officials to serve his five-year sentence in Canada, but the Conservative Government of Canada refused to allow this, and forced him to be extradited to the US.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration admitted on the day of Marc Emery’s arrest that his investigation and extradition were politically motivated, designed to target the marijuana legalization efforts and organizations that Emery spearheaded and financed for over a decade.

Here is the original text of DEA Administrator Karen Tandy’s statement released on July 29th, 2005 (also available in its original letterhead form by clicking here):

“Today’s DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group — is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement.

His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today.

Emery and his organization had been designated as one of the Attorney General’s most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets — one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.”
On May 10th, 2010, Marc was ordered extradited by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. He was taken to the USA on May 20th. Marc was forced to endure three weeks of complete solitary confinement for recording a “prison podcast” over the phone for release on the internet. You can listen to his 2009 “Prison Pot-casts” by clicking here.
Release and pardon Marc Emery

Kindest of regards
Christopher Seekins
www.gorillagrow.org
CEO Harmony World Wide

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